Do Not Easily Leave: A Small Reflection for a Friday

“Someone asked [St. Anthony]: ‘What must one do in order to please God?’ The old man replied, ‘Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.’”

 (From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Benedicta Ward)  

 

Some wise sayings are easier than others. Or at least they seem that way. You know I love the ancient faithful, those who followed Christ at great cost: the mystics, the Desert Fathers and Mothers, the monastic heroes, whose lives have taught us how to be people of prayer and humility.

And so, I’m stuck on the saying above, words that have pricked me and that offer no ease to my modern soul. St. Anothony says: You want to follow God? 1) Don’t let God out of your line of vision, 2) always live in light of the scripture, and 3) Stop moving everywhere, Micha! Seriously, pick a place and live there.

I can’t stop coming back to the idea of stability around here. The Benedictines commit to stability for life. And then I sit around reading books about them while moving myself and my family all over the country every two years. Something about my “love” for the ancients doesn’t add up. I’m reading about the Desert Fathers (St. Anthony in particular) in Henri Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart right now.  St. Anthony did leave the place in which he lived. But he left it once and spent the rest of his life in the desert, making a calling out of solitude.

Part of me wants to laugh when I read about solitude or stability or even reflective prayer. How am I supposed to seek solitude when I have a baby my body feeds every three hours, who can’t sleep without my touch? How am I supposed to pray in paragraphs when all the time my 3-year-old allows is one sentence brain spurts?

And how am I supposed to “please God” (according to St. Anthony, of course) when I have left the places I’ve lived over and over and over?

I began this blog because I feared I was losing my spiritual earnestness due to the tangible needs of motherhood. I had some inner nudge that there is a deep answer to motherhood found in monastic life—that underneath the constant emotional and physical demands of raising babies, there is room for the sort of faith of the monks. I have this kernel of belief that if I keep holding my mother-calling up to God my time is going to be redeemed, my depth is going to be expanded, my soul is going to ease out of the scrunched wad it often feels like it’s in.

St. Anthony says: “Don’t easily leave it,” these places we’ve lived. He also says, “always have God before your eyes.” Neither is easy.

  • danielle b

    Oh Micha! I think we could be friends. Your post really speaks to me this morning. I’ve also been reading The Way of the Heart for the past few days (I just finished the segment on solitude) and have been asking myself many of the same questions.

    How exactly do I find the time or space for solitude while also being a full-time SAHM to my 4 month old and my 23 month old?? When one is asleep, the other is awake, and when the one awake happens to be my 23 month old, I can hardly find time to use the bathroom!

    “Always having God before your eyes” is certainly challenging when my day consists of dirty diapers, dirty laundry, and dirty dishes!

    And while I do believe the Lord honors our brain spurt prayers, I don’t want to settle for that being my prayer life.

    Oh the questions!

    When I first read the quote “in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it” I found a different meaning (which could be wrong). But my first thoughts were about living in a place well. Settling into a home, making friends, building community, becoming part of a church, etc, so when the time comes to leave it, leaving itself is not easy. Also thinking of the Lord’s directions in Jeremiah 29 to his people. With this perspective, from reading your blog, it seems you have done this well! Even with moving every 2 years, within those 2 years you and your family see to have made a home and found community. So be encouraged! :)

    And if you find a way to practice solitude, please share :)

    • http://mommymonk.wordpress.com Micha Boyett Hohorst

      Danielle, I’m so glad you’re reading The Way of the Heart as well. Thanks for the encouragement. You’re right. I think we should pay good attention to the “easily” in that statement. Living well in a place (even if it’s not forever) is as important in that statement as the not leaving part. I’m working on the solitude thing. I’ll write a book when I figure it out! :)

  • Bonnie

    Danielle and Micha… be encouraged! when you look at the dirty diapers of your children and the dirty laundry and dishes of your family; you are looking at God. You are looking at what He has brought you to. You are being obedient to His calling for to be a Mom and taking care of your home…Proverbs 31… she is never idle… she is honored for that her hands have done. As the FTWM of 4 young boys I dont have the answer on finding solitude, but I rest in believing that our longing for the solitude pleases God, He knows our hearts. Blessings!

  • Pingback: The Whole Heart | mama:monk

  • Justin

    Micha – I just stumbled upon this, and I realize it’s a bit old – however, I wanted to give my 2 cents. I take the statement, “Do not easily leave” to apply to not running away from the challenges and difficulties of the place you’re currently at. As a Pastor’s Kid (and still a Christian,) I saw many people in my community who fell into the pattern of committing to a church, serving that church, and then leaving that church when things became difficult. The common link between all of these people is that they preferred to leave when circumstances forced a decision between pushing through the boundaries of their comfort zones into a fuller awareness of their true selves in Christ or simply walking away. In most cases, pushing these boundaries would have meant letting go of bitterness and being willing to communicate openly and honestly in ways they had not previously done.


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