Psalm 119: 9-12 (The Message)
“How can a young person live a clean life? By carefully reading the map of your Word. I’m single-minded in pursuit of you; don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted. I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won’t sin myself bankrupt. Be blessed, GOD; train me in your ways of wise living. “
In praying this Psalm through Lectio Divina the phrasing of “train me” and “wise living” kept ruminating with me. Gazing back on the recent past I have had the chance to help teach and educate myself on training oneselve in wise living.
Certainly those can be loaded words that mean different things to different people. Here is how I am feeling that they are speaking to me today.
“Train me in your ways”
The other week in church our pastor mentioned that the church was like a hospital “we are all sick”. It is an old and tired metaphor. A metaphor that I have come to dislike in many ways. One is that our current hospital and medical system is often last ditch efforts and we go to someone/some people to fix us up. Often the fixing we get comes in the form of pills and surgery. Now, this is not slam to doctor and medical profession friends and their vocation, in my opinion it just makes for a junk metaphor for spiritual life and the church.
My chosen metaphor these days comes in the frame of a gym. We choose to better ourselves and ‘train’ our bodies to perform in a sport or activity. We choose to hit the gym to improve our health and our bodies through natural means. Often within a gym you find ‘training partners’ who help to push you to be better, sometimes you are the one helping to train the other training partners. I go to church and I fellowship with others of faith in order to train myself to be the best Christian. And to use some of the training jargon, we want to “get better everyday” and “be better than yesterday”. A simple shift in metaphor, but a significant paradigm shift of how we view our church, fellowship circles, and spiritual practices.
Dear Lord, help me to wake each day and train in your ways.
“Ways of Wise Living”
Wise is defined as “having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion.” Living can be defined as “active or thriving; vigorous; strong”.
Here I am now, contemplating. What does the way of ‘wise living’ look like?
At this moment now, it feels like if we train ourselves in the ways of God we should find that discernment, discretion, judging properly become a posture of being which become a stronger and more confident way of being each day. To break this down more though if come back to this portion of the Rule of Saint Benedict.
The Instruments of Good Works
(1) In the first place to love the Lord God with the whole heart, the whole soul, the whole strength…(2) Then, one’s neighbor as one’s self (cf Mt 22:37-39; Mk 12:30-31; Lk 10:27).(3) Then, not to kill…(4) Not to commit adultery…(5) Not to steal…(6) Not to covet (cf Rom 13:9).(7) Not to bear false witness (cf Mt 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20). (8) To honor all men (cf 1 Pt 2:17).(9) And what one would not have done to himself, not to do to another (cf Tob 4:16; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31).(10) To deny one’s self in order to follow Christ (cf Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23).(11) To chastise the body (cf 1 Cor 9:27).(12) Not to seek after pleasures.(13) To love fasting.(14) To relieve the poor.(15) To clothe the naked… (16) To visit the sick (cf Mt 25:36).(17) To bury the dead.(18) To help in trouble.(19) To console the sorrowing.(20) To hold one’s self aloof from worldly ways.(21) To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.(22) Not to give way to anger.(23) Not to foster a desire for revenge.(24) Not to entertain deceit in the heart.(25) Not to make a false peace.(26) Not to forsake charity.(27) Not to swear, lest perchance one swear falsely.(28) To speak the truth with heart and tongue. (29) Not to return evil for evil (cf 1 Thes 5:15; 1 Pt 3:9).(30) To do no injury, yea, even patiently to bear the injury done us.(31) To love one’s enemies (cf Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27).(32) Not to curse them that curse us, but rather to bless them.(33) To bear persecution for justice sake (cf Mt 5:10).(34) Not to be proud…(35) Not to be given to wine (cf Ti 1:7; 1 Tm 3:3).(36) Not to be a great eater. (37) Not to be drowsy.(38) Not to be slothful (cf Rom 12:11).(39) Not to be a murmurer. (40) Not to be a detractor.(41) To put one’s trust in God.(42) To refer what good one sees in himself, not to self, but to God.(43) But as to any evil in himself, let him be convinced that it is his own and charge it to himself.(44) To fear the day of judgment.(45) To be in dread of hell.(46) To desire eternal life with all spiritual longing.(47) To keep death before one’s eyes daily.(48) To keep a constant watch over the actions of our life.(49) To hold as certain that God sees us everywhere.(50) To dash at once against Christ the evil thoughts which rise in one’s heart.(51) And to disclose them to our spiritual father.(52) To guard one’s tongue against bad and wicked speech.(53) Not to love much speaking.(54) Not to speak useless words and such as provoke laughter.(55) Not to love much or boisterous laughter.(56) To listen willingly to holy reading.(57) To apply one’s self often to prayer.(58) To confess one’s past sins to God daily in prayer with sighs and tears, and to amend them for the future.(59) Not to fulfil the desires of the flesh (cf Gal 5:16).(60) To hate one’s own will.(61) To obey the commands of the Abbot in all things, even though he himself (which Heaven forbid) act otherwise, mindful of that precept of the Lord: “What they say, do ye; what they do, do ye not” (Mt 23:3).(62) Not to desire to be called holy before one is; but to be holy first, that one may be truly so called.(63) To fulfil daily the commandments of God by works.(64) To love chastity.(65) To hate no one.(66) Not to be jealous; not to entertain envy.(67) Not to love strife.(68) Not to love pride.(69) To honor the aged.(70) To love the younger.(71) To pray for one’s enemies in the love of Christ.(72) To make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun.(73) And never to despair of God’s mercy.
Behold, these are the instruments of the spiritual art, which, if they have been applied without ceasing day and night and approved on judgment day, will merit for us from the Lord that reward which He hath promised: “The eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Cor 2:9). But the workshop in which we perform all these works with diligence is the enclosure of the monastery, and stability in the community.
There is a lot packed into the way of Good Works for a monk according to the Rule of Saint Benedict to be trained in wise living.
My short list
- Love… Love God with the whole heart & ones neighbors as yourself. Now, this can be complicated if one does not love themselves. Or loves the wrong things. Feel I am in a good place loving myself and it makes loving others much easier.
- Stuff in the 10 Commandments, see the 10 Commandments more as a way of living in community, not some legalistic rule of law.
- Love fasting.. got to work on that one.
- Relieve the poor.. what about and who do you know of the poor and how are you tending to them?
- Visit the sick.. need to work on that one as well
- Help in trouble.. situational, trying to see past just the tragedies of life and understand the systemic troubles for people & jump in that.
- A whole bunch of items I just need a reckoning with.
- Trusting God.. doozy, as one who likes to control (do not think I am alone with that) it is a bear to trust.
- To listen.. shut up Gavin, pray for our society to listen to one another versus our constant chatter and talking
- Submission.. feels counter to American culture to submit to authority of another, and it often gets confused with being a signal of weakness. But it is choice, I choose to sit with the wisdom of my church, my elders, and my family. This positions for a unique strength, counter to the world.
As with training ones body for a marathon (think Saint Paul’s metaphor) it takes time and attention to more than just running. It takes commitment & intentionality to do it well. Crossing the start line is not enough for the Kingdom of God.
Dear Lord, teach us the ways of training and practice that we may live into the wise living you have designed for us.
Thank you for sitting with my ruminations from my Lectio Divina prayer.