a night with st. benedict

Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?

i don't think i know many people who could read that sentence and not feel stirred. and in part, because i believe for each one of us there is that sense that life must be yearned for, that it is a bit further away still--as are the good days.

don't confuse this longing for that which we refer to as the desire for heaven. no, we long for something much more present, something we believe can be found in this life. perhaps we have had the hints and tastes of it that cause us to seek for it evermore. or perhaps we have felt the momentary joys that did not bring the fulfillment we thought they might, and so we wonder what ever truly will make up these elusive good days. where is life as it was meant to be? have we no hope at present? must we just wait for death and seek refuge in our longings for heaven? or do we dare to believe that the kingdom of heaven has begun here and now? and that we can be a part of it?

i feel many cannot let themselves answer benedict's question here, for they have found many ways to numb and comfort themselves against this longing. not simply because that is so easy to do in this day and age and culture, with all our toys and technology, but because they have no idea truly how to find that desire fulfilled at all. the desire is much too painful, and we fear that even for a lifetime of striving we will not know our reward.

but still that question hits us. and we stir for life. and in all we do we cannot ever get rid of it. so will we pursue it? or spend our lives in flight?

Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God's commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.

america hasn't really set itself up in a way to allow for really deep roots. i fear many of our churches have cultivated a faith that will bear little. any little drought will dry up our plants. or they be but just little seedlings that will be flooded out by any torrent. how many of the godly men and women have grown strong because of the church? or would it be more in spite of the church? no it is not that black and white, but 52 sundays will not suffice.

and so the harder path calls. and the path of God's commandments are so much more than the laws and duties of morality. no, it is the calling to death of our lives. it may be the call to drop your nets and leave everything, or to speak to the stranger at the next table. there will be many, and we do what we can to learn to refuse him nothing. but that seems so far away. do not be daunted!

oh to find our hearts full of the overflowing and inexpressible delight of love! how seldom is this love truly known today? Lord lead us in the way of compassion to truly see you in all of our brothers and sisters, and to see all as our brothers and sisters. only by your voice can we learn to walk in this.

Arrange everything so that the strong have something to yearn for and so that the weak have nothing to run from.

Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die.

ha! i don't know that there is any more advice that could be more counter-cultural than this simple word. sure every now and then there is the sporadic message that we cannot live forever. but we do not live with this reality, especially every day. and yet we cannot deny this truth. there is even something somewhat strangely freeing in it. it frees us from so many fears, from so many unrealistic expectations, from the wrong sort of attachment to this world.

"i'm going to die." let yourself say it right now. it may be soon. it may be many years from now. but letting yourself say and know that is not morbid. no, it certainly calls forth the longing to not waste your life. if you are following Christ then it should not scare you. if you are not then it begs you to ask what you are living for, or what it is that might make that time before death worth it.

we cannot truly treat every day like one we in which we knew it was our last. that is unreasonable and there are things we must do to sustain life over many days. like rest--we would not rest if we knew it was our last day, but we cannot live every day without rest. but knowing that i am going to die, would i have spent a couple hours playing settlers of catan online tonight? well maybe actually. all things have their place and there is no need to be snobby about it all. but still, let us live with the weight of our time--not as a burden but as an opportunity.

ask yourself, "when i am on my deathbed, what will i want to see when i look back on my life?" let us not take that as generic encouragement either. i won't necessarily want to see great memorable deeds or that which will bring me personal glory and remembrance, but rather that i lived my days for a greater purpose, and at the hand of God himself, following the divine whisper and knowing that our days have been good--not by our deeming or judged by our feelings, but because they have been given and declared so by our loving father. that we would soon hear, "well done, my good and faithful servant."

There are times when good words are to be left unsaid out of esteem for silence. Diligently cultivate silence at all times, especially at night.


  1. "Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?" I think this is true for each and every person that lives, because we were made in God's image. Made to look for him, and the life that comes through him... wether we know him or not, that desire dwells within us. Even in the people that have never heard His Name. It makes me sad to think that those who do know still often expend so much energy running from the effort it takes to look for life, including me sometimes, sadly. It just makes us more tired, being so far away from our home, where we can find rest.

    As far as the rest of your post, I think this verse ties it together quite nicely.

    "I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free."
    -Psalm 119:32

    Good stuff, Luke.

  2. have you read A Good Life by Robert Benson? it's pretty much this post. :) But he goes through the rule of St. Benedict. you should check it out.

  3. "have we no hope at present? must we just wait for death and seek refuge in our longings for heaven?"
    i think hope is what keeps our hearts alive, we have to be hoping in something. I'm certainly looking for the good days here on earth. But I know that there will infinitely more good days in heaven, making earthly good days just a slice of heaven's pie, but worth searching for no doubt.