One has to be in the same place every day, watch the dawn from the same house, hear the same birds wake each morning, to realize how inexhaustibly rich and different is “sameness.” This is the blessing of stability.
I grew up a PK (Preacher’s Kid) in Oklahoma. As a Methodist pastor, Dad promised in his ordination to go wherever he was assigned by the bishop. So my childhood was filled with relocations to new churches, new towns, new schools, new friends. Every year in the spring, we knew that the bishop would be deciding whether we were going to stay or move to a new place. That knowledge, that uncertainty, was part of my life.
I remember that I really wanted a horse. When I was in first grade or so, I asked my dad, “If the bishop ever moves us to live on a farm, can I have a horse?” My dad said, “Yes. If the bishop ever moves us to live on a farm, you can have a horse.” I never got a horse.
The few places of stability in my life were the houses of my grandparents and our family’s vacation cabin in Colorado. When I walked through these doors, my spirit was welcomed by familiar smells, memories of love, and continuity. I loved going to these places, to be nurtured by the consistency of love I found there. And I feel fortunate to still be able to walk through the door of the Colorado cabin and be flooded by, grounded in, a lifetime of memories.
Today I crave stability in the midst of a crazy, speeded-up culture. I long to sit in silence in a safe, familiar corner, to know that where I live and work and worship today will be the same in one or two or five years, to have a community on which I can depend to support me through difficult times and celebrate with me in joyous times.
This issue of Alive Now on stability comes from these longings, which many people experience — from the challenges of our lives today and from the tradition of our monastic brothers and sisters who commit to vows of stability as a part of their orders. Benedictine monks promise to live the rest of their lives at the same monastery, with the same community, on the same land.
We reflect on stability through the wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers who lived as hermits in the desert, the traditions of the Rule of St. Benedict (the
source of many of our spiritual practices), and the lenses of current-day spiritual leaders, including Christine Valters Paintner and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.
In an ever-changing world, how do we find and keep our center, our balance, our home? As we move from place to place, from job to job, from one life event to another, how do we hold fast to the things that keep us rooted in God’s love, in communities of support and nurture? What does stability mean for those of us who cannot commit to the same place, the same community, the same land?
As you read these pages and let yourself enter the spirit of these words and images, may you find your home, your peace, your stability in God’s gentle heart.
Credit: “From the Editor” by Beth A. Richardson. From September/October 2015 Alive Now. Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room. Purchase a copy of this issue on “Stability” by calling 1.800.972.0433. Or download the digital issue today.