Don't Be That Monk

As you get to know the Barretts, you should know right up front that Stephanie is the deep thinker in our family. Recently she was sharing what I thought were some profound thoughts, and I asked her to write them down so I could share them here. She writes…

The kids and I were reading about monks and their ways not too long ago. The kids were unfazed. For them, times of silence and contemplation are associated with crimes committed against Mom’s sanity. I, on the other hand, was giddy.

Quiet. Study. Contemplation. Quiet. Study. Writing. Quiet. All by candlelight.

When I actually began to chant, the kids asked if we were done here, and they exited to play XBOX. Loudly. I kept reading.

It seems that the first of the monkish breed decided to live away from everyone and everything else in places like deserts and even up in trees. This way, they were fully accessible to the things of God. They couldn’t be distracted. This, they believed, was the way to be good God-followers. Of course, this made them inaccessible to anyone or anything else.

I am that monk.

Different times, different trappings, but a similar belief. I feel sheepish admitting it, but sheepish is a good place for me to be for awhile.

Not long ago, I believed that I had discovered the inside track on being a good God-follower, too. It was really very simple. Knowledge of the things of God is good. So all the studies and all the classes taken and taught and all the time logged at church and my familiarity with all topics spiritual translated into my being good—a good God-follower. Nobody ever said this was the standard by which you should measure yourself or that one even existed. I picked it up all by myself. And if I were honest, I would have said that this made me deep.

Now, I would say, this belief made me dangerous.

Could “too much of a good thing” apply here? It’s Bible knowledge I’m talking about, after all. No. More likely, it’s just not enough of the greatest thing that is the problem—love. God Himself says that I could know everything there is for me to know and still miss the point of it all. Knowledge without love…

The perk of the whole knowledge thing was that it came easily to me. Loving God—I can do that. But loving people would be easier if it weren’t for the people. The neighbor across the street who’s a lot like me—investing in her isn’t hard, it just the time factor. The neighbor down the street who really pushes my buttons—that invokes the “I don’t want to invest there” factor.

This is where knowledge and love need to mesh together to move things into the realm of the extraordinary.

Look at what happened with those monks up in the trees. Somewhere along the way, their idea of being good God-followers was transformed. They came down and got together in communities. They still did all their monkish things because they loved God and wanted to know Him. But they started doing them in a way that said they were accessible. The idea must’ve been communicated that, even if you hadn’t been up in a tree or weren’t anything like a monk, you could still be around a monk. You could feel invited in and helped, maybe in ways beyond your original intention—maybe in ways that led to your own transformation. The history books say that these former tree-dwellers changed history and rescued many in a very dark time. Extraordinary.

I need to be part of a community of God-followers where love, the greatest thing, is the driving thing. Where knowledge is turned into action. Where God’s sweeping search and rescue mission is taken up and owned. Where everybody is invited, included, and important. Where love for God and people moves things into the realm of the extraordinary.