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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Simple Authenticity

I am reading through a particular devotional for the third time right now that is digging deep into my heart and mind once again. It is demanding that various things in my life be examined, dusted off, thrown away, replaced, kept. The book is titled Benedict’s Way: An Ancient Monk’s Insights for a Balanced Life. There is no easy way to summarize it, so I won’t. I just recommend that you buy it. I found mine in a Catholic bookstore, but other friends to whom I’ve recommended it have found it inexpensively on half.com.

The title of today’s reading had me at “hello”: Simple Authenticity. A few nuggets:

Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way. RB 4:20 (“RB” = Rule of St. Benedict, a guide written by 5th century Italian monk which has guided believers who are living in intentional, monastic communities. The practices are surprisingly applicable still in the 21st century.)

Seldom or never do we hear anything about simplicity as an essential discipline of the spiritual life. Most of us have only a vague idea of the meaning of the word. Simplicity means “absence of artificial ornamentation or pretentious styles… lack of cunning or duplicity.” Where there is simplicity words can be taken at their face value… where there is simplicity there is no artificiality. Albert Day
Simplicity is trendy. People have shelves of books and attend conferences lasting a day or longer to learn how to downsize the clutter and complexity of their lives. This is one time when the cliché “Just do it” seems appropriate. Lonni Collins Pratt

It isn’t just our dressers and closets [and garages] that are jammed. That’s the easy part to simplify. You just square your shoulders and cut back. The harder part? Ceasing all of our complicated artificiality… the bigger problem, and maybe the root of why we accumulate, has to do with the clutter in our minds and hearts. Our relationships are cluttered, and our energy is fragmented in all directions… Keeping to the basics – this the strength of the Benedictine life. And it starts with the courage to step out of the disguise and into the reality of who we are. Pratt
~ Chew on all of that for a few moments ~

After I read these thoughts, I picked up my Bible. I am currently in the Book of Jeremiah. Today I was in chapter 17:5-18 and these words hit me most:
7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.

9 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
and desperately wicked.
Who really knows how bad it is?
10 But I, the Lord, search all hearts
and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
according to what their actions deserve.”

Then I really appreciated the questions from the IV Press Study:
  • Why will the person who relies on human strength be disappointed (vv. 5-6)?
  • How does God provide for the person who relies on him instead of on human strength (vv. 7-8)?
  • What is the state of the human heart before God (vv. 9-10)?
  • What did Jeremiah continue to hope for (vv. 14-18)?
  • What "drought conditions" are you facing now?
  • In what ways do you find it easier to trust someone or something else besides God to see you through those circumstances?
  • How does God's promise in verses 7-8 give you confidence?
I sense God’s guidance most clearly when he coordinates the dance between various “songs” I’m hearing… The reading from Benedict and this scripture passage from Jeremiah connected in my soul, but not in a beat-me-over-the-head sort of way.

As I read these two passages I tried to listen closely. I “heard” the rhythmic connections between Benedict’s call to authenticity and Jeremiah’s prophetic push to dig my roots down deep for real water. The Benedictine reading reminds me to clear out the clutter that distracts me from Jesus, and the reading from Jeremiah tells me that God sees through my facades, regardless. Lord, I thank you for the safety and truth that you are; that gives me the space to be real and vulnerable. Then your Spirit does His work, shaping my soul for eternity.

1 comment:

  1. Google Books has a copy of Benedict's Way for those who want a preview.