Benedict’s Rule: The Aim of Stability

The reality which stability provides is aimed at only one thing:  steadfastness.  De Waal writes of this on pages 56-58.

Without stability (reality), our faithfulness will be sorely tested.  We can find ourselves becoming cynical (e.g. “why didn’t anyone tell me it would be this way?”) or discouraged (e.g. “I didn’t sign on for this”).

In classical Christian spirituality you never find the cost of discipleship ignored in the formative process.  It’s one reason why removing the Cross from sanctuaries and worship centers is, to say the least, problematic.  Classical spiritual formation begins with the reminder that abundant living includes sacrifice, and that we are entering upon a life defined and directed by God’s will, not our preferences.

Moreover, as De Waal shows, without stability we will begin to think that the voice of our False Self (egotism) is the Voice of God—as the old phrase puts it, “It must be right because it feels so right to me.”

Stability puts us into community, and it is a community of folks who have both been “on the mountain top” and been “through the ringer.”

One of my favorite illustrations of this kind of Reality comes from a passage in Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit.  It’s a bit long, but I must share it with you….

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Jesus knew this.  So did Benedict.  So must we.  Stability is what provides it.

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.
This entry was posted in Benedict's Rule. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Benedict’s Rule: The Aim of Stability

  1. Ric Schopke says:

    Thanks for not only a reminder of the importance of stability, but also for bringing back good
    memories of a special pastor. Years ago (mid-1970’s) our pastor, Billy Ray Jennings, preached
    a sermon using this same section of “The Velveteen Rabbit” at First UMC, Lexington, Ky.

Comments are closed.