Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The stern critic

Something in me feels best when I am accomplishing things; I suspect it's tied to the fact that my mother's highest accolades for anyone were "efficient" and "competent." So however strong the urge may be to just BE, and be contemplative, the pull to DO is always stronger.

So even though I have three days to myself while my husband and daughter bring her car across the country -- which means I could be spending my time meditating and painting -- some imp in me is keeping me busy accomplishing things; cleaning out closets and drawers; taking things to the cleaners, the thrift shop, and the dump; cleaning and refilling the hot tub; running errands and generally staying busy.  Yesterday I never even meditated -- which might explain why yesterday's post was both late and pretty pointless.

But in the middle of all my busy-ness yesterday I came home to find, not one, but TWO eagles on our roof (the other one flew away while I was going into the house for my camera).  And as I look at that grave face, I realize that for all my determined awareness of the feminine and supportive aspects of the divine, some part of me still thinks God is more like this: stern, critical, looking down on me from some lofty perspective and not particularly pleased with what he sees.

Perhaps it's just that I am reading (for the third time) Paul Wilkes' Temptations, a mystery set in a monastery in Vermont and featuring as its protagonist a playboy journalist who is wrestling with a call to monastic life, aided and abetted by a powerful monk whose demeanor is rather like that of this eagle; a monk who may or may not be driving his novices to madness and self-destruction (I have a gift for forgetting endings, so the mystery is as fresh and unsolved today as it was the first time I read the book).

I'm about two thirds of the way through, and have just come across this line: "One of the adages that I'm sure has been around since the first two hermits decided to cook their humble broth in a single pot was to me the ultimate leveler: Only the weak come to monasteries.  If a man was strong enough, he could live in the world."

It seems to me to be a corollary to something an older woman once said to me when we were remarking upon the fact that neither her daughter nor my husband had any inclination to attend church: "I think it's because they are naturally good.  It's only those of us who struggle so with wickedness who need to go to church."

-- which might explain why church, and the behavior of its leaders, is disappointing to so many.  Perhaps it's not, as we always assumed, a place where true believers can share their faith and support one another on their journeys, but rather a place where people who struggle with the huge gap between their high expectations of their own morality and their actual behavior go in hopes it will motivate them to do better.  I'd like to believe the churches I've served in over the years fall into the former category, but for some reason the churches in the latter category seem to have a lot more visibility.  No wonder our young people are staying away...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you have hit on something. "it is only those of us that struggle with wickedness that need to go Ito church".

Sorry I can't carry on the idea any longer, the neighbor just locked herself out and needs help.:-)