Give thanks to the Lord for he is gracious
Nicolas Stebbingexhorts us to remember the wonderful things God has done for us
People who know us well in the Community of the Resurrection know that we complain a lot.
Like all English people we complain about the weather. We complain about the Church, we complain about each other, we complain about having too much work to do, we complain about the Community.... and so it goes on. In that respect we are probably like any other family.
And yet, it must occur sometimes to some who hear us complain, ‘If they feel like that why do they stay? Why indeed did they ever come and join this Community, if life in it is so dreadful?’ It is time to remember the goodness of God and the wonderful things he has done for us. He has not just done wonderful things in the past; he will do wonderful things in the future, but if we are busy complaining we probably won’t notice them.
Again we have to ask ourselves, if people come to see us with the thought that they might join us, what will they see? Will they want to join a Community that is always complaining? Will they wonder if they can spend 40 years in such a company? Couldn’t there be a little joy?
Well, I cannot speak for my Brethren, only for myself. Despite my own complaining (and there is lots of that) can I really give thanks to God? It takes a bit of thinking about but, Yes, I can.
God has called me to this life. That is a wonderful privilege. God’s call singles each one of us out and makes it clear we are special to him. The life he has called me to has not turned out the way I thought it would and on reflection that is a good thing. It has not always been comfortable; it has not always been easy, but it has been full of excitement, changes, new experiences. It really has been fun.
This life is the religious life. It seems crazy to most people – no sex, no personal possessions, no freedom to do just what I want. Sometimes those are hard for me to live with, but actually I do not want the other kind of life. I love the freedom we have to serve God wherever he wants us to be. I love the largeness of this life, the big horizons, even if the winds sometimes blow quite cruelly through them.
I like the prayer. What I call prayer would not be much to write about – liturgical prayer, singing in community; silent times in the dark without much seeming to go on. Prayer is that time spent with God which is impossible to describe but as necessary to a religious as food and sleep.
I have loved the experiences: the travel involved in ecumenical work, the new countries I have visited, Romania, Germany, even India. I have loved meeting other religious, both Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Reformed, who share the same life as we do, only they seem to do it much better with love, generosity and freedom.
I love the new friends, people who have visited us here as guests and hugely enriched my life; students I taught who are now priests who welcome me into their homes, and the old friends who are still around in Zimbabwe and here. Religious life is a life which is rich in friendships.
I cannot say I always like my brethren. I am sure they do not always like me, but there is something very good about being bound together in a Community, living the same vows, caring for the same life, discovering each other’s differences and sometimes delighting in each other’s ways. It is interesting that often it is the brethren we find most difficult whom we talk about with most affection after they have died. Perhaps the challenge to love them has finally borne fruit! I do love the eccentricities of my Brethren. That is one of the richest parts of the diet.
I have loved being back in Africa, especially Zimbabwe. CR has made it possible for me to do work there which seems useful and which I enjoy, and to combine it with my monastic life. It is not often we get everything (well, almost everything!) we want.
And then there is God. What can one say there? He is so big, eternal, all powerful – it is amazing he bothers with me, but he does. And he comes across to me as gentle, loving, caring, sometimes laughing, sometimes teasing. He is never angry though he is often sad. His touch gives new life, new fire, new joy to take me through life. It is only here, in this life, in this place, I can find him like that. That is the main reason to give thanks.ND
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