January is out of the gate. Now February, too. What change can be harnessed for this year? What will be different for me, and how can I be made different? These are always the questions that rattle around inside of me when the calendar announces, “New!”
I am restless for change, and I recognize this more and more in myself, finding myself grateful for the friends in my life who see it more clearly than I. One close friend recently remarked, “I don’t see to remember a year of knowing you when you haven’t started something new.”
Adding twins to our family. (OK, unplanned but new.)
Moving to Toronto.
Starting a blog.
Writing a book.
Taking a staff position at my church.
And all of this, in six years.
When I float the idea of book #2 with this friend, I see the caution in her eyes. She wonders if I can recognize the gnawing appetite I have for new and different, if I can understand how it hollows me out, how I never really feel whole in the endless longing for change.
I was thinking of this today, this caution in her eyes, as I was praying for a friend, and this thought came to mind: a change in life doesn’t produce a changed life.
This year, I want to resist my reflex for new. I want to see this desire for what it can often: the unwillingness, even laziness, to deal with the muck of now - and really, the muck of me. And I’ve been thinking that I need, not change, but stability, which is a Benedictine virtue and practice that I intend to learn more about.
St. Benedict required his monks take three vows, one of which was stability. They would live in the same monastery with the same people for the span of their lives. Commit to a life that will become thoroughly familiar to you, St. Benedict insisted, and drive away your endless appetite for new and different, which, in the end, is nothing more than a subtle form of greed. And remember this: a change in life doesn’t produce a changed life.
Here are some books I’m looking forward to reading on Benedictine spirituality:
Found: Micha Boyett (I’ve already begun this, and it’s beautiful!)
Wisdom Distilled From the Daily: Joan Chittister
Crafting a Rule of Life: Stephen Macchia
Monk Habits for Everyday People: Dennis Okholm
Living with Contradiction: Esther de Waal
Seeking God: Esther de Waal
The Rule of Saint Benedict: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove