Desert Wisdom: Sober Living

Book eleven of The Desert Fathers is entitled “Sober Living.”  It’s not a term we use a lot today, but it embodies an essential element in the Christian spiritual life.

The best synonym for it today would be “Singular Living”–or being what the early Christians called “all eye.”  We get the gist of it in the following saying…

Allois said, “Until you can say in your heart, ‘Only God and I are in the world,’ you will not be at peace.” (Saying 5)

This is not a “Me and Jesus” spirituality, and that must be emphasized right from the start.  It is rather a simple recognition that as soon as we factor in a “third party” (it can be anything) the spiritual life begins to be complex and perhaps even confusing.  The addition of a third “voice” (or more) makes it more difficult to discern the Voice.

To be fair, we have to note that one of the early problems with hermetical monasticism was its lack of community.  But the monks eventually realized that and began to live within an identifiable community even when they maintained a hermit’s life.

So again, this saying has nothing to do with any approval of isolated or independent Christianity.  The early Christians submitted their personal revelations to spiritual guides, to the larger community, and (later) to the creeds and councils of the church.

Allois’ saying is a call to a sacred simplicity, where we “seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33), knowing that everything else will be added once we have done that. The circumference falls into place when we have nailed down the Center.

Sober living is nothing more than praying, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” and combining it with the prayer, “here am I, Lord, send me.”

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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