Through Lent with Benedict: Joyful Perseverance

How often do we talk of persevering as though it is something we do with gritted teeth? How often do we think of perseverance as something that is done when hanging on to faith by our fingertips? It is something that needs to be endured in order to get to the light at the end of the tunnel, it is certainly not something that is to be enjoyed, yet ‘Ben’ speaks of ‘Joyful Perseverance’.

It is rather shocking to think that the Benedictine community would send someone away four times before allowing them to enter into the community as a potential member, it seems rather unholy to leave someone on the doorstep without shelter. How inhospitable! But someone who was seeking to become a brother wasn’t seeking hospitality but total commitment into a way of life following a shared rule. It reminds me of a verse from today’s gospel reading

Those who love their life lose it and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (verse 25)

Following Jesus isn’t a Sunday activity it is a whole way of life, and we must be willing to forfeit those other things which seem important to us now. For a monk that calling to give everything up is quite a stark one, but not everyone is called to be a monk (or even nun). However we are called, it is to be a calling which brings us joy – if it brings a sense of heavy heartedness or if we begrudge the choices and sacrifices we have to make in order to follow it, then maybe it isn’t our calling, or maybe we need to go away and spend some more time in thought and prayer before knocking on the monastery door once more. That’s not to say that it will be easy to follow God with our lives, indeed if we are to walk in Jesus’ footsteps, then there are times when we will question, and wonder if there was some other, less painful, way to do the will of God. Even Jesus prayed,

what should I say – Father save me from this hour?

The calling on our life will not always be easy, there will be times when we will be angry at God, confused and upset, there will be times when gritted teeth do seem to be the only way through. So how do we culture this ‘joyful perseverance’?

I was at a family funeral this week, and we sang the worship song ‘Blessed be Your Name’, it contains the lines ,

Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering, though there’s pain in the offering, Blessed be Your name

You give and take away, You give and take away, My heart will choose to say Lord Blessed be your name.

This is a song I have struggled to sing in the past, and did so again this week. It is easy to sing God’s praises when all is well, but when life crumbles around us, worship becomes an act of determination, a concious decision to worship, maybe even a concious decision to be joyful. It is a reminder to us that God is with us, not ‘elsewhere’. It is a reminder that God isn’t to be found in some greener place on the other side, but God is with us here and now, and it is here and now that God’s desire is for us to

squeeze out every ounce of juice from the fruitful life Christ offers (+ Tim)

Where we are now, is where we will encounter God, where we are now is where we are called to be, where we are now is where God calls us to reach out and to love others. We can spend so much time thinking ‘if only…’ and dream up a more perfect situation of family contentment, Sunday worship, financial viability, but it is the here and now that God is interested in.

Paul often speaks about the Christian life as a race – and a marathon at that! Last year I completed a 5k run ‘in style’ to raise funds for Cystic Fibrosis Trust. It is the first time I have competed in a race since school sports day. In our training session we always finished off with a Phoebe run…

Phoebe runs with a sense of wild abandon, she runs for the pure joy of it. That doesn’t mean to say that it isn’t hard work, or that she won’t feel tired or out of breath at the end of the run or even have aching muscles at the end of the ‘work out’, but throughout it all there is a sense of joy which cannot be ignored by those who see her.

Often we can appear ashamed of our faith, wanting to blend in with the background, fit in with our peers. God calls us into something so much better than uniformity. He calls us into his presence, he calls us into a life of love, a life of being loved by Jesus and of loving others too, whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in. He calls us to Joyful Perseverance.

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