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prodigal-son-jpgIt’s been said that religion is us looking for God, but Christianity is God looking for us.  Christ Jesus did not come to set up a new religion, but to restore a lost relationship.

In our world that prizes education and how-to, the temptation is to let a system replace a relationship.  “If I do step A and B and C, in the proper order with the proper words, I will wind up with D, a close personal relationship with God.”  And so long as my main focus is the relationship, it can be said to work.

Too often though, ways of being that once benefited my spiritual life become an anxious habit, a striving to ‘keep up’ the progress I’ve made instead of focussing on the ever present, ever loving, ever patient Person of the Creator.

I am struggling with this.

The fact is that due to my own personal weaknesses, external structure and discipline is very helpful to me.  For this, I wish I could join a live-in monastery and have the benefit of a total environment geared to my spiritual development, whether I feel like it in the moment or not.  On my own, without a regular regime and others to join with, it’s hard to get past all the distractions.

I would love to get to the place where I could just be ‘led by heart’,  or as Hildegaard von Bingen put it, be ‘a feather on the breath of God’.   I dream of it.  That would be living from a true relationship focus.  But I need to remember, relationship requires more discipline than a system.

It means remembering to discuss directions to take in all things, staying spiritually attuned not for moments, but days.  It means staying in and flowing with a perpetual awareness of God.  Constant surrender to divine prompting, constant choice to lay down ‘my way’.  Even with clear direction, it takes discipline to obey and act on it.

And all this, of course, is the work of the monk.

Like so many in our world, it seems I want to have the benefit without putting in the effort first.  I have also heard it said, and I think this is true, that ‘continuing in discipline leads to delight’.

As my daughter learns to drive, she requires constant external reminders of where to look, what to remember, how to do.  But before long these things will become second nature to her, and she will naturally follow the flow of traffic, the rules of the road and succeed without any outside help.

And this is what I want from a Rule.  I want to follow a Rule that grounds me in ways of relating to God, so that I know how to get there and stay there, for living that way to be second nature.  A Rule to build a foundation of discipline in me to the point where my heart can expand beyond it in constant joyful, responsive, relationship to my Beloved.

Not a religious system, but a tool, a Rule, to bring me deeper and freer into relationship.





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