“If you take little account of yourself, you will have peace wherever you live.”
Over inflated egos are an ancient problem. Abba Poeman gives us these simple words from his desert monastery fourteen hundred years ago. If we are to take little account of ourselves, we must develop a sense of self that is beyond our earthly reach. My world, your world, is dominated by goals and ambitions to further quality of life. This is not wrong in and of itself, but it must be tempered by acknowledging that all comes from the Lord God.
There are countless stories of people living lives plagued by self-doubt and restlessness, and all of their pain is rooted in their own self-gratification. They move from place to place, relationship to relationship, and job to job searching for that perfect place of peace. The key to peace is knowing who we are in the sight of God. He created us for good. He created us in His image, and yes, He wants us to live in peace. Such a peace is found when we offer ourselves to Him. In offering ourselves to Him, we become smaller to the things of the earth and larger to the things of heaven.
Give it some thought. Begin to see yourself as a child of God and not a child of man. This transition could give you abundant peace.
He also said, ‘Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.”
—–Abba Poeman of the Desert
We miss so much of life because we are not following our hearts. From a very early age we are taught that the longings of our hearts are selfish and should be suppressed. I am a believer that we all have some special something that we can give heart and soul to. This something is a gift from God that satisfies our heart in a marvelous way. Far too many people spend their lives in meaningless toil and misery because they do not seek the deep desires of their heart.
Though Abba Poeman advice is over a thousand years old, it still speaks to us. Our world is full of people in unhappy marriages, jobs, and all other sort of contentious activities. These less than satisfying endeavors of the heart lead to depression and anxiety. Just imagine how much better your life would be if we sought the desires of your heart. Most of us cannot just abandon our present lives and go seeking some Shangri-La, but we can take a heart centered look at what we are doing.
What am I giving my heart to today?
Abba Poeman also said,’ do not live in a place where you see some people are jealous of you, for you will not make progress.’
—–Abba Poeman of the Desert
I am sure that the wise monk was telling his fellow monastics that they should flee from a community where they felt a great deal of jealousy aimed at them. Such advice was very helpful for hermits and monastics of the 7th century, but not easy for 21st century Christians. Few among us can just pack up and leave when we feel a sense of jealously from our neighbors or church community, because we live in a much different world. The Abba’s advice is very helpful to us if we begin to see “place” as an interior decision. Place can be defined as a feeling or perception held by people and not a geographical location. With this concept, we have the freedom to leave a place of jealousy and envy for a new place of freedom and love. As we allow ourselves to be carried away from the worry of what others think to the world of what God thinks we can make tremendous progress.
Too many people spend too much time in a place that is riddled by jealousy, envy, competition and not enough time in the grace of God. Let me assert to you that if your life is stuck there, you will not progress spiritually. The Abba says, leave! We depart that interior place by concentrating on the gifts and graces that so freely flow from God, and allowing all this other stuff to just die. Perhaps it is impossible to live in a physical place that is free from jealousy, but it is possible to pray your way to a spiritual place where victory is won.
Abba Poeman said, ‘In Abba Pambo we see three bodily activities; abstinence from food until the evening of every day, silence, and much manual work.’
—-Abba Poeman of the Desert
Three disciplines are put forth by this shepherd of the desert. They are abstinence, silence, and manual work. These three disciplines are the heart of the monastic tradition and Christian walk.
Abstinence from food is referred to as fasting. Why should fasting be a building block in our Christian walk? The mastering of the weakness of the body is at the center of offering our true selves to God. As long as we are ruled by our physical needs, we can never fully give ourselves to our Creator.
Silence is, quite simply, prayer – the type of prayer that is not cluttered by words. Any one of us who has ever been called upon to pray in public knows the pressure of the right words. When the monk withdraws to his cell and observes sacred silence, God has the opportunity to speak. We are no different. God must be given the opportunity to speak. Consider having a time of silence every day, and you will be delighted at what God will do.
Now there is manual work. We live in a time when people avoid the use of their hands because it somehow implies that we are less than successful. An important component to the life of any Christian is to work with our hands. Your work could be painting, sewing, or some other work that would allow you to express the gifts that God has given you.
Be mindful of these three disciplines and I believe your life will be remarkably better.