I heard a story about a Russian Monastery that was dying and declining. The brothers were growing old, many had died. The villagers had stopped coming to visit the monastery. Young men were no longer interested in dedicated themselves to the Monastic order. This decline led to worry and the loss of hope led to bitterness. In desperation the abbot went to visit an old hermit we had heard about. He hoped that the old man might have some wisdom. The abbot arrived after a long journey and explained their problem to the hermit. The hermit prayed for the abbot but said nothing more. The two men sat in silence for a very long time and the abbot patiently waited to hear some word of hope – a blessing, a prophecy, just something simple to try. Finally the abbot could abide the silence no longer and he begged the hermit for an answer. The hermit replied, “I’m sorry, but there really isn’t anything I have to tell you. I don’t know what the future holds for the monastery. I am sorry – oh, but there is this – I believe that the Messiah is in your midst.” The Messiah?, thought the abbot. Among us at the monastery. He rushed back and reported the unexpected news and the brothers began to question, “Who is it?” “Who among us is the Messiah?” Surely not Bro. Nicolaus, he gripes too much. Surely not Bro. Stavros, he is so whiney. But what if …? And on it went.
And in time as the brothers began to suppose that any one of them could be the Messiah, they began to treat each other with respect and kindness and love. That spirit extended into the village and rumors of the Messiah’s presence continued so that everyone began to wonder if their neighbor might be the Messiah. And though no one was ever identified as the Messiah, the monastery was thriving and the village was blessed and young men devoted themselves to the faith.
Since Jesus is with us always, then discipleship is on-going and it is everyday. It is not something for a special day or a special evening or a special program. It is the pulse of every moment lived in the kingdom of God.
“Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ”
― C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
As a child who was educated in the old parochial school way, I was often told when I was anxious and worried to “offer it up.” For an eight year old that was a most difficult and nearly impossible philosophy. As I have grown older I have come to appreciate the wisdom and true meaning of that philosophy. We all know that trails and anxieties are part of living. In the midst of those soul shaking times we have some decisions to make. Do we “offer it up” or wallow in guilt or pain?
Lewis knew that many people were spiritually trained to consider any anxiety to be a sinful flaw in their lives. He urges us, however, to make these a vehicle to journey into the passion of the Christ. How different would life be for us if we could adopt this philosophy? Anxious days would become days of prayer and, difficult times would be time of getting to know God better. After all, knowing God is the core objective of our spiritual journey. Paul tells us to let our anxious times be a catalyst for prayer. “Don’t be anxious about anything; rather bring up all your requests to God in your prayers and petitions along with giving thanks.”(Philippians 4:6) Our anxieties can serve us rather than us serving them. Let your troubled times illuminate the nearness of God who is so near that we can feel His pain just as He feels ours.
Lord, let every anxious moment drive me closer to you so that I might experience your passion. As I walk with you in your passion, I am made strong to walk on this earth. Today, guide me to offer up my anxiety to you so that I might experience you. Amen