O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; *
my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,
as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.
Sisters and Brothers, divine Scripture calls to us saying: "Whoever exalt themselves shall be humbled, and whoever humble themselves shall be exalted."
Benedict's Rule 7:1 (Chittister, Pg. 76)
The goals and values of the spiritual life, in other words, are just plain different from the goals and values we've been taught by the world around us.As mentioned by Sister Joan, I have spent much of my life confusing "humility" with "humiliation". I may have been taught the difference at one time, but I promptly forgot. I live in a world that tells me I can do anything I put my mind to. This makes me think of my teachers that said "Seton, you have so much potential". The mostly unsaid corollary statements usually included "if only you would do your homework", or "if only you would pay attention in class", or "if only you would not daydream..." It has taken quite a number of adult years for me to realize that while I could have done many things, I can't do all things. This became easier when I finally took stock of my place in life and realized I can't do everything. There just isn't time.
Chittister, Pg. 78
Ten years ago or so at forty-something I finally gave up the dream of being a great professional mountaineer and wilderness explorer. That came as a great relief in many ways. I no longer worry about the "what ifs" and "could have beens". Instead I have the satisfaction of knowing I am still me. Not quite in the physical shape I might like, knowing I can choose more activity (or still less), but definitely me. I have the physical humility to know who I am physically, and the knowledge that should I choose I can make changes.
This understanding of my physical humility provides a model for spiritual and professional humility. For several years of studying Benedictine Spirituality I have struggled. Recently I find my self accepting that I am a professional with an active relationship with God. I have found the Rule of Benedict and the Benedictine traditions and patterns that come from that fit well with my life. When I can let of go of thinking I am in charge I start to realize that God is using me for His work just as I am. I have increasing flashes of understanding that I, a baptized and living believer in Christ's saving grace (even imperfectly believing), and Oblate of Saint Benedict am living the life that God asks of me. Yes, I have to let go of the thought that "I am not good enough" because I am not some label such as "ordained priest", "professed monk", "famous spiritual director", or, for that matter, "great mountain climber". I am Seton, and much to my surprise, I am pretty sure God is using my life.
OK. After three paragraphs of trying to explain it, perhaps even I am beginning to understand humility as being just who I am right now, and being willing to let God use, love, and hold me, even when I don't quite believe it all myself.
A Note To Anyone Reading:This entry is part of a series that is developing as I read The Rule of Benedict, A Spirituality for the 21st Century, Joan Chittister, OSB, Crossroads, 2010. I am offering this both to those at St. George's Episcopal Church, Arlington VA, that may be reading Ms. Chittister's book and to anyone that is interested.
Unless stated otherwise quotes from St. Benedict's Rule are from the translation in this same book.
Psalms are from The Book of Common Prayer, The Episcopal Church, 1979 unless otherwise noted.
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