Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Monastic Vows

Thank you for the record number of visits and responses to last week’s post, “Married at Last!” and the “likes” and comments on Facebook about my birthday and our wedding!

I am passionate in my admiration for the contemplative life. I could not have done what I have done as a gay activist both in the church and the culture were it not for my morning prayers and personal retreats, times to bask in God’s unconditional, overwhelming, and transformational love.

And I have always had a rather romanticized desire to be a part of a monastic community. I believe I could handle most of the vows required of monastics.

I’ve got poverty down, having been self-employed doing free-lance church work, including writing and speaking and editing, for most of my career, and now writing a free weekly blog with a large readership whose donations so far this year total just $850.

And the vow of stability required by some monastic communities would also be within my reach, being an introvert and a creature of habit as well as being loyal and steadfast.

Those who know me or have read my books may find this difficult to believe, but I could even handle celibacy or chastity.

But to take a vow of obedience would be for me most challenging of all.

In birth order theory, being the youngest of my family, I would be the revolutionary, the rebel, even the prodigal. While I’m not quite all that—after all, I’m the only child of my parents whose vocation has been upholding their Christian faith—yet I am a progressive Christian, which means I resist being told what I have to believe and how to behave!

What helps me is understanding that the word “obedience” itself comes from a root word meaning “to listen,” and I’m pretty competent at that, not only as a pastor and friend, but also as one whose prayers are more about listening than speaking.

One could say that the Christian vow of “obedience” is much like the Buddhist concept of “mindfulness.” Jesus commanded us to “watch,” or “watch and pray,” as he asked of his disciples in Gethsemane, seeking always God’s will and God’s way and God’s commonwealth.

Years ago, I found myself praying to God, “Bring me closer to you,” but then I quickly added, “But not through anything bad.” Much of spiritual intimacy is predicated on suffering, when spiritual intimacy is provided to alleviate suffering. Jesus healed the masses with his hands and his words, words that reminded them of God’s benevolence, giving us life and love, mercy and grace.

My mother was the first to encourage my reading of monastics, just as she did much of her life. But it was not until the 84th and final year of her life that she told me, “You know, I’ve always believed God loves us all, but I only recently have come to believe that God loves me personally.”

Surprised, I said, “Mom, haven’t you been reading all my books?!”

For her, this was a kind of a spiritual “arrival.”

It may just take me 84 years of life to fully believe it myself.

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Copyright © 2015 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved. 

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