Wholeness in Contradiction: A New Year’s Resolution

“We are all seeking wholeness,” the amazing Esther de Waal writes in Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality, a book I’ve owned for 6 months and am finally picking up to read. She says that in The Rule of St. Benedict, we can find a handbook of healing: “St. Dunstan’s first biographer, almost a thousand years ago, described the saint as a man, ‘following the health-giving Rule of St. Benedict” (12).

I’m finding myself impressed by her thought that the Rule I set out to follow in my daily life more than a year ago, the Rule that brought discipline to my prayer life last spring and summer, and that I all but ignored for the past six months of my pregnancy (Why is laziness so easy to blame on morning sickness?), is the same Rule that brought health into the life of St. Dunstan.

I long for health in my life. I mean that in a holistic sense: emotional, physical, spiritual. I don’t want to be stressed. I don’t want to be short tempered with my husband and son. I don’t want to be spiritually dry. I don’t want to have an aching pregnant body. I’m not much of a New Year’s resolution setter. I tend to avoid failure. But as I kissed my main squeeze and sang karaoke along with friends to Heart’s “Alone” (how good is that freaking song?) at midnight ten days ago, I found myself instinctively aware of my need for discipline this year. Adding another child to my life in two months is going to shake my world up. If I’m already anxious and stressed, if I’m not healthy in my prayer life, how will I survive those first two months of T-Rexy’s life? How will I survive motherhood in general?

The wholeness de Waal describes in her book is not one of easy answers. There are no steps in the Rule of St. Benedict. Instead, there is commitment. There is faithful prayer, community, daily persistence. De Waal says: “…the promise is that we shall learn to live with contradiction, holding together the tensions in such a way that will let them become creative and life-enhancing for us” (12).

As I move through her book, I’m sure I’ll have more insight to offer you. But for now, my mind is hovering over the apparent contradictions in my life: Stay at Home Mom with an at-home admin job and an at-home attempted writing career.  Mother of a two year old who can hardly find the time to sit, much less pray in quiet, attempting to live a contemplative life. Worrying over my pregnant body weight while hoping to teach my son to live outside of a surface-driven, image conscious world. Striving to live without loving money while anxiously awaiting about future baby bills. Contradictions.

De Waal says The Rule of St. Benedict can teach us to hold these tensions in such a way that they become “creative and life-enhancing.” So here’s my question for you. What are a few of your life contradictions? And how are they making you more beautifully healthy?

  • Stephanie F.

    I loved this book. I read it last fall and I constantly was marking portions of it to read out loud to my husband – what she said made so much sense to my head and my soul.
    As far as pregnancy and praying goes – I’ve been pregnant w/ morning, noon and night sickness three times and just come to accept that my prayer life while pregnant is severely lacking in many ways – I get no enjoyment out of it whatsoever, so I just hope that God does. At the time it feels like a season of spiritual dryness for me, but “normality” never fails to resume after I give birth! Don’t make too much out of this time of upheaval :)

  • Stephanie F.

    I loved this book. I read it last fall and I constantly was marking portions of it to read out loud to my husband – what she said made so much sense to my head and my soul.
    As far as pregnancy and praying goes – I’ve been pregnant w/ morning, noon and night sickness three times and just come to accept that my prayer life while pregnant is severely lacking in many ways – I get no enjoyment out of it whatsoever, so I just hope that God does. At the time it feels like a season of spiritual dryness for me, but “normality” never fails to resume after I give birth! Don’t make too much out of this time of upheaval :)

  • M.K.

    Oof. The need for discipline hits home. Discipline is a constant struggle for me. I resolved this New Year’s to try and cut through the mind that gets in the way of discipline. The mind that is too ready to rationalize a way out of anything that I don’t feel like doing. I may end up even doing the thing I’m supposed to do – but not without a great mental struggle first. So I’m trying to cultivate “just do it” mind. The mind, that when it’s time to get up and meditate, doesn’t begin to think “I don’t want to.” Or if it does, I just train (or try to train) another part of my mind to overrule, to just get up and do it anyway. Another facet of it has been committing to doing with no expectation of any particular outcome. Meditate everyday with no attachment to any result. Exercise regularly with no attachment to an ‘improved’ body. Write everyday with no expectation of it being good and no thought of it being bad. All to just train the mind so it is less caught up with itself and its likes/dislikes and more ready to perceive that which is. It is slow going. But I think the operative word is cultivate. Plants do not appear, wholly formed. They are tended. So I tend. I try. Good luck with your process. The beautiful thing, I imagine, is that you are worrying about contradictions, about not getting up to pray @ 6am, and all the while you are Loved. As you are. In each moment. Contradictions & cares included. No prayer can augment you in god’s eyes. No failure to pray can diminish you. In every moment, loved, just as you are. What a beautiful thing.

  • M.K.

    Oof. The need for discipline hits home. Discipline is a constant struggle for me. I resolved this New Year’s to try and cut through the mind that gets in the way of discipline. The mind that is too ready to rationalize a way out of anything that I don’t feel like doing. I may end up even doing the thing I’m supposed to do – but not without a great mental struggle first. So I’m trying to cultivate “just do it” mind. The mind, that when it’s time to get up and meditate, doesn’t begin to think “I don’t want to.” Or if it does, I just train (or try to train) another part of my mind to overrule, to just get up and do it anyway. Another facet of it has been committing to doing with no expectation of any particular outcome. Meditate everyday with no attachment to any result. Exercise regularly with no attachment to an ‘improved’ body. Write everyday with no expectation of it being good and no thought of it being bad. All to just train the mind so it is less caught up with itself and its likes/dislikes and more ready to perceive that which is. It is slow going. But I think the operative word is cultivate. Plants do not appear, wholly formed. They are tended. So I tend. I try. Good luck with your process. The beautiful thing, I imagine, is that you are worrying about contradictions, about not getting up to pray @ 6am, and all the while you are Loved. As you are. In each moment. Contradictions & cares included. No prayer can augment you in god’s eyes. No failure to pray can diminish you. In every moment, loved, just as you are. What a beautiful thing.

  • http://awakenarts.wordpress.com Katherine Pledger

    My biggest contradiction is that which the following verse explains:

    James 3:10 (New King James Version):
    10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.

    I became very aware of the power of my tongue and how important each word is that comes out of my mouth. Blessing or curse, life or death, truth or lies…. I am the only one with power to chose the words that I speak. Everything God spoke happened, every time. I decided that I would begin to tame my tongue and take seriously the importance of speaking blessing. I want to be aware of every area in my life I was giving the devil an invitation to show up and have a hold of me, even if all he got was a toe, it was still a toe hold he can’t have now! I want to consider, with every word, “what if every thing I say happens, every time- can I live with what I am saying?” (That really gets a lot of “ouchies” in my thoughts.)

    My family has taken up saying a few things to help each other out when we say things that might seem like “no biggie” but truly we shouldn’t be saying: “If you say so!” “So be it!” and “If you don’t mean it- don’t say it!” (That last one is said a lot because when we are caught saying something we shouldn’t have said we tend to say, “I didn’t mean it.” haha!)

    So we have decided to take up being blessing speakers and we declare to: Believe only! Speak Blessing! Speak life! Speak Victory! Speak Healing! We are over comers!

    Already we have experienced such amazing health, supernatural sleep, joy and peace… all in the sweet name of Jesus! We give all glory to God and will continue to speak the Word!

  • http://awakenarts.wordpress.com Katherine Pledger

    My biggest contradiction is that which the following verse explains:

    James 3:10 (New King James Version):
    10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.

    I became very aware of the power of my tongue and how important each word is that comes out of my mouth. Blessing or curse, life or death, truth or lies…. I am the only one with power to chose the words that I speak. Everything God spoke happened, every time. I decided that I would begin to tame my tongue and take seriously the importance of speaking blessing. I want to be aware of every area in my life I was giving the devil an invitation to show up and have a hold of me, even if all he got was a toe, it was still a toe hold he can’t have now! I want to consider, with every word, “what if every thing I say happens, every time- can I live with what I am saying?” (That really gets a lot of “ouchies” in my thoughts.)

    My family has taken up saying a few things to help each other out when we say things that might seem like “no biggie” but truly we shouldn’t be saying: “If you say so!” “So be it!” and “If you don’t mean it- don’t say it!” (That last one is said a lot because when we are caught saying something we shouldn’t have said we tend to say, “I didn’t mean it.” haha!)

    So we have decided to take up being blessing speakers and we declare to: Believe only! Speak Blessing! Speak life! Speak Victory! Speak Healing! We are over comers!

    Already we have experienced such amazing health, supernatural sleep, joy and peace… all in the sweet name of Jesus! We give all glory to God and will continue to speak the Word!


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