Have you ever read a story that never leaves you? For me, it’s the monk story.
More than 10 years ago, I sat in a waiting room where, rather than waste time, I flipped through the pages of a magazine until an article captured my attention.*
The author had long dreamed of being a monk, but because a 9-5 paying job seemed more practical, he chose that route instead. Although successful, he never forgot his heart’s desire.
One day, the author saw a newspaper article about a local monastery. For men who wanted to consider monastic life, the monastery was holding a four-week retreat. Qualified applicants would live at the monastery and participate in its activities. At the program’s conclusion, participants could decide whether or not they wanted to enter the Order.
The author’s application was accepted and after checking in on the first day, he was shown to his quarters. His small doorless room contained a single bed, dresser, desk and chair.
After unpacking, he and the other would-be monks attended an orientation. Each participant was given his schedule for the next month. The author was stunned to learn that morning prayers and vespers began at 3:30 a.m. with mandatory attendance. After breakfast, the monks worked in silence until lunch, then studied throughout the afternoon. After evening vespers, the monks returned to their rooms where they remained silent.
Assigned to wash the monastery’s floors, the author thought his chore not so bad until he learned that he would scrub the floors on his hands and knees. In silence. The work was painful, exhausting. Hours of silence magnified the harshness of this life. This was not what the author imagined when he dreamed of monastic life.
After lunch on the fourth day, the author returned to his room and began packing. When the head monk walked past the open doorway and saw him preparing to leave, he asked the author why he was leaving.
The author explained that life in the monastery was nothing like he had imagined. The hours were long and the work was difficult. And then there was the silence. The painful, lonely silence. It was all too much, too difficult for the author to bear. He couldn’t see himself serving God this way for the next 15 or 20 years.
To the author’s surprise, the head monk didn’t try to persuade the author to stay, but rather agreed with everything he said. Life at the monastery was unbearably difficult. Why, during the head monk’s many years there, life had never once gotten easier for him. If anything, it sometimes became harder.
Shocked, the author asked the head monk how he was able to stay.
“As much as I love God and want to serve Him, if I viewed my life as though I had twenty or thirty years left here at the monastery, I couldn’t handle it. I’d pack my bags and leave.
“But God has used the difficulty, the austerity, the silence to teach me perspective. I’ve learned to look at my life one day at a time. When I do that, I can get through the hardships that day brings. There are some days so difficult that I need to look at my life in one hour - or even one minute - increments or I would be overwhelmed and give up.
“God has taught me to view my life in manageable amounts. That’s how I get through the unbearable. That’s how I stay. That’s how I’m able to serve the Lord.”
The author let the head monk’s words sink in for several minutes before he began removing his clothing from his suitcase.
“What are you doing?” the head monk asked.
“I know I can make it till dinner.”
Life is difficult. It can be downright brutal. But I know I can make it through today. What about you? How do you get through the toughest of days? Let me hear from you!
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
For my sisters in Christ, The Light Brigade:
Bethany Reconnu Kaczmarek, Cathy Baker, Colleen Scott, Deb Traverso, Edie Mahoney Melson, Felicia Bowen Bridges, Jacquelyn Marushka, Julie Webb Kelley, Keiki Hendrix, Kyriaki Marushka, Lesley Eischen, Lori Roeleveld, Lynn Huggins Blackburn, Marcia Moston, Mary Beth Dahl, Mary Freeman Denman, Sheri Deloach, Tammie Fickas and Terri Herndon Schumpert.
* I regret that I cannot recall the name of the author or the magazine this story appeared in so that I can give both their due credit and my appreciation. If anyone should recognize this story, please contact me. It is not my wish to take credit for this story.
Cynthia Howerter © 2011Read More