We are leaving out so much in our exploration of The Desert Fathers. If you have not yet purchased a copy of this ancient, classic text, I hope you will. You can use it for the rest of your life to keep “drilling down” into deeper dimensions of the Christian spiritual life.
We end our look at “Discretion” today, remembering that it is the longest book (chapter) of all.
The early Christians wanted to dispel any notions that there was a “one-size-fits-all” spirituality. We see it in the following saying,
Mark asked Arsenius, “It is right, isn’t it, to have nothing unnecessary in one’s cell? I saw a brother who had a few cabbages, and he was rooting them out.” Arsenius said, “It is right, but each should do what is right for his own way of life. If he is not strong enough to endure without cabbages, he will plant them again.”
We must not miss the phrase “each should do what is right for his own way of life.” This enacts Jesus’ admonition that we do not determine our discipleship by looking at someone else; we do so by following him (John 20:20-22).
One of the great mistakes is thinking that other people should precisely follow our example, or in reverse, getting the impression from others that we should precisely follow theirs.
We must remember that God creates; God does not clone. There are particular aspects of the spiritual life which are suitable to certain ways of life. It is necessary to speak of an “appropriate” spirituality.
One monk could root out cabbages. But not everyone could, or should. Arsenius was really saying to Mark, “Tend your own soul”—or better—“Allow the Spirit to plant in you what is pleasing and uproot what is not.” The result will be a “cell” that glorifies God, like every other cell does, but not exactly as every cell does.
I have written before that it makes no sense to think that God takes the time to etch into our fingers little “prints” which distinguish us from everyone else, but then turns around and mass-produces human souls.
Pray God to give us all—and each—an “appropriate” spirituality.
In our devotional lives, it is very difficult to “think for ourselves.” We would much rather have someone dictate to us what to read and what to pray. These are great gifts, but we must have those times when we just “be” before the Lord. These recent posts have served to remind me that devotional times (I try to do 3 per day) are more than a daily office, they are a checking in with the boss.