Benedict’s Rule: Impossible Tasks

Chapter 68 of the Rule takes us to a very delicate, but important dimension of spiritual formation: dealing with “impossible” tasks.

The word “impossible” may throw us off a bit.  Benedict is using it as the early response a monk might give to a challenging task.  We’ve all known those times when we’ve said to ourselves, “I cannot do this!”

Benedict says that when this is the case, the monk should talk about it with his superior.  The implication is that if the task is truly impossible, the monk will be relieved of his duty and the task will be given to someone else.

But sometimes…..the monk will be ready to “move on up” to a new level of commitment and performance.  The wise superior will recognize this, and in such moments, the monk will not be relieved from the task.  Instead, the monk will (by hard labor, no doubt) learn something new about himself—something that will put him in a new relationship with God.

Looking back, we can all remember times we’ve been thankful that a wise friend or guide didn’t let us off the hook, but rather kept encouraging us—sometimes believing in us more than we believed in ourselves.  Who knows where we might be today, if we had not been asked to do “impossible” tasks?

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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1 Response to Benedict’s Rule: Impossible Tasks

  1. Thanks, Steve. I needed this right now. With the experience I am going through right now, I know God is moving me up to see more of His Glory in my life. An old majestic Oak in our backyard fell on our house over the master bedroom on May 23 at 4 PM and we woke to the attic coming down on us. We are both OK…lovebirds of 46 years. We are working with the insurance company and housed by a daughter preparing to move into an apartment for some time as they restore our home. I am so thankful for your sharing. It blesses me daily. mlk

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