Stability, Disappointment, & Being Children of God

One book I’ve been planning to read for quite some time is Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture (which was the 2010 Englewood Book of the Year). I finally got around to picking it up over Christmas to read on our myriad road trips.

Wilson-Hartgrove, who’s written a lot about radical Christian living and new monasticism and who lives in community at Rutba House in Durham, NC, is a good voice to hear. J & I had lunch with him in our previous life in Texas, so I want to add that he’s also just a down-to-earth guy trying to do what God is calling him to do.

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few years about stability, rootedness, and place, as many of you faithful readers of Texas Schmexas know. I have been wondering what it means to be committed to a place, to be committed to a people, especially when it sometimes feels like this is not your place, not your people, that this place in which you find yourself is disappointing sometimes and the people are sometimes disappointing, too. But you know what?

This disappointment says more about me than about the people or the place.

Or about God.

It should be clear that I’m not bashing my community here in the middle of America, but rather trying to show that being in community means necessarily being disappointed sometimes. We all will be, no matter where we are. But being committed to stability means that we will be committed to community even when we’re disappointed. When the going gets tough, we won’t get going.

With that in mind, here’s a Sabbath meditation for today.

Stability is a commitment to trust God not in an ideal world, but in the battered and bruised world we know. If real life with God can happen anywhere at all, then it can happen here among the people whose troubles are already evident to us. Community is always a risk. . .

. . . The desert mother Amma Syncletica said, ‘If a bird abandons the eggs she has been sitting on, she prevents them from hatching, and in the same way monks or nuns will grow cold and their faith will perish if they go around from one place to another.’

– Wilson-Hartgrove, The Wisdom of Stability, pp. 24-25, 32

It is good to be reminded that “real life with God” can happen here. I need to hear that message. And maybe you do, too. Really. It can happen where you are, too.

Hmmm. I can tell I’m getting more radical because it’s less easy to fluster me when I read about stability, rootedness, brokenness, and poverty. In fact, most of the time when I read the Bible these days, it just seems obvious that this is what it means to be children of God.

Community is always a risk. . .

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2 comments on “Stability, Disappointment, & Being Children of God

  1. Anna says:

    Thus reminds me of something I read not too long ago (see below) about the pain and difficulty of living in community. I have certainly found this to be true in my experience of community life, whether it be relationships with family, friends, church…the initial reaction is to run away from each others’ brokenness, to avoid the unattractiveness of someone else’s (or our own) wounds, but if we learn to embrace the raw pain if it and live into that difficult place, we will find that we will experience real growth and love, and perhaps we will find that rather than disappointment, there is this amazing grace and we will be filled with wonder and gratitude.

    Sitting Row on Row
    Elizabeth O’Connor
     
    Anyone who has tried to live in community with others knows how beset with pain and difficulties such a life is! Perhaps that is why the pews in our churches are row on row, and why in less obvious ways we have put distance between ourselves and others. We have not wanted to suffer in any serious way the encountering of one another, all unaware that avoidance deprives us of community.

    • elizabeth says:

      Anna,
      You are certainly right, and this is a lovely quote. I think we can’t experience real growth apart from shared pain, though I don’t personally like the implications of that very much! I was talking about this quote with J, especially the part about the “pews in our churches” being “row on row”–and we decided that this can be a good and a bad thing. Bad because of exactly what the quote suggests–distance between ourselves and others; pews even allow us to be careful in selecting just how close we are to our pew-mates. I think a round-robin might be the best way to interact in churches–seeing each other and responding to each other. But pews can also be pretty awesome–you’re smack up against someone sometimes. You see the little kid squirming or crawling on the floor, you see the whispering, you see the weeping, when it happens. And this is community, I think. What do you think about pews?

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