Do not grant newcomers to the monastic life an easy entry, but, as the Apostle says, ‘Test the spirits to see if they are from God.’ (1 John 4:11). Therefore, if someone comes and keeps knocking at the door, and if at the end of four or five days he has shown himself patient in bearing his harsh treatment and difficulty of entry, and has persisted in his request, then he should be allowed to enter and stay in the guest quarters for a few days. (Rule 58:1-4)
Before we enter into a conversation of stability and perseverance, it is critical to understand that although the goal of stability is to stay put and work things out, stability does not mean we should remain in unhealthy or abusive relationships either personally, professionally, or communally. Stability is not a force to keep us where we are not safe: physically, mentally, or spiritually. Stability does not ask us to remain in a place or in a relationship where we cannot grow and flourish. Although the primary stability for most of us is in our Creator, we can trust that our Creator will guide us to make changes in our life and relationships necessary for our physical and emotional well-being.
Stability in St. Benedict’s Rule is the action of staying put, riding out the tough times in hopes of a stronger relationship with God and others. It is persistently sticking with a situation, with people, and with God. The inner meaning of stability according to The English Benedictine Basil Cardinal Hume is that we “Embrace life as we find it, knowing that this, and not any other, is our way to God.”
Our culture, however, encourages something vastly different: Don’t get tied down. Keep your options open. Everything is disposable: people, relationships, vocations, careers, etc. This is a very superficial and convenient way of living. To live under these pretenses is to not have any skin in the game; it is a very self-centered approach to the challenges that can actually strengthen us and our relationship with our Creator and with others. Living a disposable life robs us of the joys and experiences of remaining steadfast and stable.
Stability says yes to the Creator’s will for us in the places we have been placed and with the tasks that we have been given to do. Stability also recognizes that there are times when God, the Creator places us in a particular situation not so much for what we can gain, but for what we can offer to others. Esther de Waal writes that a life guided by stability has both an exteriority and an interiority. The exterior action of remaining in a place, relationship, or situation is to establish “stability of heart,” (de Waal, Seeking God, 60). Inner stability becomes more important as our lives and cultures become more mobile and transient. Very few of us remain in the cities of our youth, or remain in the same home all our lives, or remain with the same company for our entire careers. By staying rooted in our spirituality, in a force larger than ourselves, we can draw strength.
Henri Nouwen, a priest and writer, discovered that inner stability that rests in God brought him peace.
Whenever I am, at home or in a hotel, in a train, plane, or airport, I would not feel irritated, restless, and desirous not being somewhere else or doing something else. I would know that here and now is what counts and is important because it is God himself who wants me at this time in this place. (The Genesee Diary, 76
Stability has an element of persevering with patience. Persistence and perseverance, therefore, ask us to live in the present moment; to accept and respond to whomever and whatever God has placed before us. Nouwen suggests that stability is wanting the situation we are in because we know that we can find God in it regardless of its difficulty or unpleasantness.
Stability calls us to work out our problems with the people who are in our lives, which offers us moments of growth.
- Stability prevents us from running away from necessary development
- Stability prevents us from bringing old problems with us into new relationships
- Stability keeps us from being controlled by our moods and doubts
- Stability encourages the practice of looking for the best in the other person
- Stability may also bring a call for forgiveness and healing
Stability, therefore, brings about a staying power that enables us to persist and persevere. To do this in the midst of others allows us to take on an attitude of humility where we remain open and present to the person or situation in front of us, seeking not our way but what God is trying to teach us through this person or situation. Stability becomes our teacher about others and ourselves. You see stability is not just about standing in front of another person, but also standing in my own center and not running from the real me. Stability helps us accept who we are with all our graces, faults, and wounds. Instead of listening to the thread of negativity streaming in our heads, we are reminded that God is present and we are wonderfully made in his image. We do not need to look somewhere else where we think or have been taught that God might be.
So many aspects of our lives are hurried or may feel fragmented. The key to being present is living right where we are and not in the past or the future. Living in the past can cause regrets and depression; living in the future brings about anxiety and worry.
- Tell yourself there is enough time to complete everything you NEED to do. This helps to usher in a sense of calm and helps you focus on where you are.
- Take time each day to focus on feeling your feet and the place in which you are standing. Stop and look around focusing on items of specific colors (ie: all things blue that are around you).
- Accept that your Creator has placed you where you are needed. Conscience acceptance helps connect us with the Divine and brings about inner stability.
- Ponder this: How might you come to know God more deeply through the various and diverse tasks you undertake each day?
Stability and Faith
To gain the strength and balance to put in our daily lives and relationships, there may be times when we need to rest more firmly in our relationship with something bigger than ourselves. Wrestling with questions of your faith can offer clarity and therefore, stable ground on which to stand.
- Does my commitment to God or my Creator change depending on the circumstances of my life?
- Do I strive to follow Jesus’ teachings or am I more inclined to look for ways to escape?
- Am I faithful in my practice of prayer, however, I choose to pray?
Stability and Perseverance
Perseverance is not being stubborn but it sure is a close cousin. Perseverance allows us the courage and stamina to work through barriers that divide and destroy relationships. I think it is far to say that most of us have experienced perseverance, where we have remained connected when we wanted to run either from a conflict or a relationship. By recalling the details of experience, we can find new strength and assurance that we can persevere through the present situation.
- What was the prior situation?
- What did you do to find the courage and stamina to persevere?
- What were some of the positives that emerged for you from this past experience?
- How might those positives and the resources used in the past help you today?
Your invited to journal for your own edification and/or add comments to the blog feed of what worked or did not work for you when dealing with times of uncertainty. Next Wednesday we will explore the topic of Obedience.
May you experience a holy Lent that offers you a place of solace and holiness.