Choosing Not to Escape

Posted on October 03, 2013 by Katherine Ruch

I have recently been challenged and blessed by the book, Seeking God, by Esther de Waal.  The Benedictine rule of life has much to teach those of us who live in the "turning world."  Esther de Waal was herself the mother of four, wife to a pastor, and wrote this book at her kitchen table.

To live a holy life in the middle of a culture that constantly distracts and pulls us in multiple directions, requires intentionality and a "rule of life" that encourages disciplines that brings us present to Christ and his Church throughout the rhythms of our day. 

Esther de Waal explores the three Benedictine vows of obedience, stability, and conversatio morum (conversion of life). I was especially blessed by the call to "stability." This commitment not to run away actually makes the counterpoint to stability possible: change.

"Instead of this bewildering and exhausting rushing from one thing to another monastic stability means accepting this particular community, this place and these people, this and no other, as the way to God...

Instead of trying to find different circumstances within which to meet God, we find that the place he has put us is exactly the best place within which to encounter him.  Enclosure keeps us from escaping ourselves.

'Enclosure is something I cannot cast off, it's the anchor that holds me in a restless sea'  for he knows that when he is thinking of escape he is tired of facing himself."

Tired of facing true it is that I often want to escape who I am in certain circumstances--anxious, angry, discouraged.  I would like me better on a beach in Brazil.  But when I see what comes out in pressure, I see what must be changed.  I used to think I was such a good Christian before I had children. Then I began to realize that I just hadn't been squeezed hard enough for the deep uglies to come up.  By being where I am placed and not escaping, I can face my need for God's transformation and find that it is indeed possible, even promised.

The author goes on to describe the desire to escape the monotonous nature of our lives instead of seeing the monotony itself as a pattern to be filled by God's presence.

"Our difficulty lies in the way in which we fail to meet those demands with anything more than the mere grudging minimum which will never allow them to become creative.  That limitation can lead to creativity is something which any good artist knows...Clearly this means accepting the monotonous and making it work for us, not against us."

I learned in poetry writing that a form which I must follow often forces me into the greatest creativity.  So it is with life.  Limitations can be the form that produces the most beauty in our lives.

Being committed to the community in which we have been placed, either family or church or both, is that place of limitation. The place we are squeezed, known, challenged to change, will offer us greater opportunity for transformation than if we keep seeking a "better place."  Too often I have seen people come close to the chance for transformation but because of fear or shame or hurt, leave the very community where love would help them achieve the change they so desire.  Someone may be called to leave one church community for another, but this should be discerned with other mature believers and done in a way that encourages growth rather than arresting it.

Accepting where we are as the very place to meet God is the prerequisite for actually meeting Him. God is waiting to fill our moments with his Spirit that our common lives might be transformed into something uncommon.

Esther de Waal gave me a greater vision for what my way of life could be to make space for the transforming presence of Christ.