A Little New A Little Old – The New Monastics
by Jimmy Pruitt
I am reading a wonderful new book by Ken Shigematsu titled, God in My Everything, How an Ancient Rhythm Helps People Enjoy God. Ken is the lead pastor of Tenth Church in Vancouver, BC. I would call him a neo-monastic in the Celtic tradition, which, by the way, is very near and dear to my heart due to my family roots originating from Carmarthenshire in Southern Wales.
Thinking in terms of classic Celtic Christianity, their culture was one of a moderate to relaxed pace or rhythm of life that found God’s presence best experienced in moments or seasons of rest, peace, meditation, contemplation, scripture reading, prayer, solitude, work, play and other spiritual disciplines.
In comparison to some of the frenetic and damaging work cultures I have worked in, and in some cases perpetuated myself, the rhythm of the monastic tradition (by the way, the Celtic monastics were not reclusive in nature, but actually built their monasteries close to villages and populated centers in an effort to demonstrate Christian hospitality and grace) allows for time to actually “be” with God and commune with Him in an unhurried and undistracted manner.
Thomas Merton in New Seeds of Contemplation wrote that “unnatural, frantic, anxious work, work done under pressure of greed or fear” is “never willed directly by God.” Similarly, Evelyn Underhill observes, “Fuss and feverishness, anxiety, intensity, intolerance, instability, pessimism, and wobble, and every kind of hurry and worry – these are signs of the self-made, self-acting soul.” (exceprt from Shegematsu’s God in My Everything)
So what is our fascination with the appearance of busyness, intensity and doing life at the speed of light? Having “been there and done that,” I believe it is an unhealthy and dysfunctional need to validate one’s worth through self-effort. The “self-made man” syndrome may sound good in the pages of a book or magazine, but it often translates into real life as fierce self-reliance, selfish ambition and rugged independence.
Have we missed the mark and convinced ourselves that we are somehow garnering God’s favor by working “For” Him and on His behalf as opposed to walking “With” Him and resting in the grace to simply “Be” His child? I have worked in an environment where my day was filled with talking staff and employees “off the ledge” in an attempt to counter the unhealthy and ambitious self-validation of a broken and dysfunctional leadership culture.
I am finding hope in books, writings and articles like Ken’s. Perhaps you too can find hope for living a life that follows the rhythm of the Spirit of God and not the unhealthy drivenness of fallible and damaged people. There is a rest that has been given as a gift, perhaps you will discover and recover your rhythm of rest, play and work and thereby “…glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” (excerpt from the Westminster Catechism)
Link to Ken’s new book on Amazon: Ken Shigematsu – God in My Everything