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Stopping to Listen

It’s been awhile since I last wrote. So much has happened and each time I sit down at my computer to write, I find myself not sure of where to even begin. I have been wrestling with depression and in the past few weeks coming out of that. There is so much that I have been learning and experiencing and it will take me awhile to unpack all that has happened in my life. But as a starting place, I thought I’d share a reflection paper that I recently wrote. I am taking a course called “Monastic and missional” which is basically what my community is about. As part of the course we had to read and reflect on St Benedict’s rule using the prayer form Lection Divina. I could have written my paper on all sorts of topics and in fact had a topic picked out. It is amazing how relevant this Rule is. But when I actually went to write the paper, I was inspired once again by the opening words of the rule – “Listen Carefully” and this is what came out of that inspiration.


Listen…

Reflections can never fully be separated from where we are at in our lives. Over the past few months, I have struggled with deep depression. St. Benedict’s Rule and Esther de Waal’s commentary have provided encouragement and challenge for me as I have wrestled with God in the midst of difficult circumstances. There is much to glean from this writings. However, St. Benedict’s opening and simple words, “Listen carefully” have stayed with me during this journey (Prologue, 1). It is these simple words that I feel God has impressed on my heart at this time.

Stopping to Listen

St. Benedict calls us to stop – to stop long enough to listen. It is so easy to go about life without stopping and I tend to fill my time so that there is little room for reflection. When times are tough, I find myself running from one thing to the next in an attempt to flee from my pain and, as I have been discovering, to allow God to speak into that pain. I found myself in the hospital for five weeks that in a sense forced me to stop and to listen.

Listening requires an open heart and open ears. St. Benedict admonishes us to listen carefully. These words carry weight – there is something to which I must pay attention, some message, some charge or something that I am to grasp. In many ways I wonder if those weeks in the hospital were a gift and a chance to rediscover God’s call on my life and to become firmly planted in Christ’s love once again. Maybe I have to stop to listen long enough to realize my rootedness in Christ (de Waal, pg. 7). Maybe in this rootedness, I will find healing and wholeness in my life. This season of my life seems like it is a time of restoration and rescuing. I need to continuously take time to stop so that God can work in my life.

Listening to Love

St. Benedict writes, “See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life” (Prologue, 20). As I have wrestled with God these past few months, I have doubted His love and His desire for wholeness and peace to reign in my life. God’s persistent love, however, found me and travelled with me even into the depths of my despair – a profound, and life-changing discovery for me. St. Benedict’s speaks of God waiting for us daily (Prologue, 35). I have been discovering God’s abundant patience, waiting day by day for me to turn to Him.

I am often quick to proclaim God’s abundant love for others around me, but slow to claim it for myself. Esther de Waal writes, “What is totally certain is that when I encounter the voice of the father […] it is the voice of love” (de Waal, pg. 7). This is something that I need to let sink into my own heart. In the hospital, I experienced God’s love at a time that I wasn’t expecting. As I was surrounded by God’s unquestionable love, I began to wonder what would happen if I opened my heart fully to God and allowed God’s love to penetrate it. Perhaps de Waal’s words are true – that in the moment I rest in God’s love, I am truly myself. My experience in the hospital taught me that it is in the moment that I face who I am with all my sin and brokenness that God’s love can overflow into my heart and life.

From Listening to Action

Listening carefully requires a response. Listening does not mean to let the words pass over me, rather it is a call to let them penetrate my heart and transform my life. St. Benedict is calling us to give up our will, surrendering it to God’s perfect will (Prologue 3). When caught in the depths of despair, it is easy to lose sight of this. Perhaps in these moments, it is all the more important to cling onto the Love that God lavishes upon us. When one truly listens to this love of God, one cannot live the same – love spurs us on to action. I must translate into action what I am learning. I need to be open to what I hear from God, whether they are words of challenge or comfort (de Waal, pg. 6) and these words must bear fruit in my life.

St. Benedict tells us to not be frightened by the call God has on our lives, for “in faith we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love” (Prologue 48-49). As I listen to Love’s call to obedience and holiness, God’s love will fill my heart in ways that I cannot expect. I remember fondly a moment in the hospital when I felt utterly loved by God and surrounded with this love that saw me as I really am and welcomed me into His presence. This moment was so powerful that it caused me to look at my life and what needs to change. Change can be frightening and the road to healing is definitely daunting. I see the intentional work that I have ahead of me to stare directly at my past and my present and allow God’s love into those areas of woundedness and brokenness. However, Benedict’s words encourage me that God and His infinite love journeys with me.

Conclusion

In conclusion, my reflection on St. Benedict’s rule has encouraged and challenged me to listen carefully to God, to be open to letting His love penetrate my heart and to be spurred on to a life that is overflowing with God’s inexpressible love. I am encouraged that through being rooted in God’s love, I will find true healing and wholeness in my life amidst the brokenness and pain.

 

Bibliography

de Waal, Esther. A Life-Giving Way: A Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict. Collegeville Minnesota: The Order of St. Benedict, Inc., 1995.

Fry, Timothy, OSB, ed. The Rule of St. Benedict in English. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1982.

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