My Monastic Cell

Posted on September 26, 2013 by Katherine Ruch

Welcome to my monastic cell…don’t mind the boys playing soccer in the hall, I mean basketball with the hoop on the front door, the noises of violin, piano, and arguing,  the persistence of the phone ringing and another child asking me a question over and over. I also have a din of dialogue in my head composed of resurfacing anxieties.  Oh, the baby is on the table drinking out of leftover cups getting wet and fingerpainting with breakfast leftovers, and is that my dear husband standing at the door asking if he can process with me a difficult work situation for a minute?  Come on in, for any time is as bad as another.

My life may not seem to have anything in common with that of a monk’s, but over the years, I have realized that the monks and I actually have much in common.  A contemplative monk removes himself from the noise and demands of life so that in silence and the absence of what obscures God, he may be freed to find God.  I, on the other hand, cannot escape the needs and noise of other people and am forced to be freed from myself, which enables me to find God.  My monastic cell is crowded and how I sometimes dream of a private hermitage, but God has promised that he can meet me here just as easily.  It is where I am that I encounter God and he shapes and transforms me.  

All that obscures God is me.

It has taken me years to accept this cell and not think that I could be a much better Christian under different conditions.  I now accept it, but everyday I have to live it…and that is a different matter.  T.S. Eliot, in his poem, The Four Quartets, goes to four locations where suffering has occurred and his faith in a good God is tested.   Eliot concludes that in spite of the turning world, God is constant. He is the still point.

This blog is an extended reflection of finding our center in Jesus while all else scrambles and swirls.  Jesus promised to be with us where we are…not where we wish we were. 

It is the daily challenge to find him where I am and welcome his companionship, his light, his truth.  This does not mean I do not seek silence or stillness—these are so necessary for the shaping of a Christian.  But as mother of six children and wife of the pastor of a large church, with parents and relatives too far away to help, I cannot control what is asked of me and what I am called to do when I feel I have nothing left.  That is when I find that God has engineered this gap between what I am capable of and what he asks of me simply because he wants me to discover him.  All that comes forward when I am out of control—impatience, anger, frustration, fear, anxiety—is exchanged for his presence which can meet any situation with wisdom, peace, expectation, and the long view.  

God is glad to be right here, can I choose to be here with him?

A Christian friend of mine was invited to speak at a Buddhist monastery.  While there walking the gardens, one of the monks said, “Don’t you feel the peace?  How can you say that one cannot find peace here?”  My friend replied, "You are confusing peace with tranquility. Here in these mountains, surrounding by these idyllic settings, you have tranquility. When we are stuck in traffic, the daily trials of life, the unpaid bills, and do not lose our center, then we have peace. This is the Christian aim."

I hope in some way this blog will encourage you to find Christ with you in the circumstances of your own life so that you can experience his transformational presence just where you are. 

Got to go get the baby off the table…