“Who enjoys tranquility? The one who doesn’t take seriously either praise or lack of it from people.” Thomas ‘a Kempis
“In the desert, one inescapably confronted the threat of nothingness, the loss of all one’s activities, distractions, evasions . . . . There in the desert they knew the very scaffolding of their lives to be wholly dismantled. Games were called for what they were. Utter honesty was demanded by unrelenting spiritual directors, hard as the rock beyond the cloister where they prayed. The unbending John Climacus, for example, insisted on laying bare the pretenses of people in the religious life. He spoke of those who bless silence but cannot stop talking about it; those who fast without drawing attention to themselves but then take pride in such remarkable modesty; those who weep over death and then, with tears still in their eyes, rush off to dinner. Amma Syncletica refused to let anyone deceive herself by imagining that retreat to a desert monastery meant the guarantee of freedom from the world. The hardest world to leave, she knew, is the one within the heart. In the desert Christian’s understanding of renunciation, dying to oneself also meant a dying to one’s neighbor. They knew how easy it was to invest oneself in what other people think, measuring oneself by the accomplishments of others, remaining enmeshed in a hopeless pattern of jealousy, subservience, manipulation, and resentment. ‘To die to one’s neighbor is this,’ said Abba Moses the Black, ‘to bear your own faults and not to pay attention to anyone else wondering whether they are good or bad.’ Comparing oneself to others, being concerned about their approval or disapproval, was entirely foreign to the desert way. Watching the sweep of wind over desert sand inevitably gave one practice in studied indifference.” Belden Lane
“Dear friends, I warn you as ‘temporary residents and foreigners’
to keep away from worldly desires
that wage war against your very souls.”
1 Peter 2:11 NLT
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- When you think of “worldliness”, do you think about your heart? . . . how entrenched the world is there? . . . how “hard” it is to war against that?
- Would it be hard to quit pretending about your spiritual life?
- Would it be hard to become “indifferent” to the approval of others?
Abba, help me to be real before you and others–no posturing, no pretending.
For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane