In discussing the topic in this post with a Christian friend who is writer/historian/priest/musician I found myself commenting on Duane W.H. Arnold’s interview with John Michael Talbot:
“Very cool, thanks Duane! Funny, I seem to experience both monastic experiences, fluctuating between inner-city (inter-jail/prison, etc.,) ministry based in our JPUSA community life, yet also am able to take solitary breaks nearly every day in our garden or silent, empty spaces here (short time frames of course) and when I wish, 45 min. drive away to a country spot w. nobody and a very small building (woods and a field) and compost toilet on it. No electricity or running water, etc.. where I and on occasion others go, build a fire, sit or walk, pray, meditate, seek Him. All good. Balance for me really. -Glenn”
His article/interview: https://phoenixpreacher.com/36536-2/
Perhaps it’s about personality? Introvert or extrovert? Perhaps ones childhood both wonderfully positive re. family or horrible, abusive relationships there or in later adulthood? Perhaps it’s encouraging, welcoming or full-on rejection, hurtful indifference or super painful experiences earlier in school or university, the workplace, or with a church, a denomination, a house fellowship or what was once a close-knit band of friends?
What about a sense of the reality of God Himself, a personal, deep conviction of His calling on our life to live alongside these people, those folks, here or there, and doing this or that service for the Lord and others?
All, some or none of these directly affect the linked just as they do the “dones”, “nones” and whomever else lives on planet earth.
Note my response above- “balance“.
Far as I and those wise, closest-to-me folks say, I don’t likely suffer from mental illness issues but some of course do. I’ve been deeply hurt on a number of occasions by Christian or at least professing Christian people during my lifespan but that’s not unusual either.
Looking back, my family was largely a train wreck but not constantly. As I aged and then came to saving faith it became pretty clear for me to understand how they each and together ended up in various addictions, adultery, divorce and pain. No doubt all this did and does affect my life.
I’ve experienced a fair bit of what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1 and plenty time pondering how it relates to my and most of our experiences (esp. vs. 1-12). In the end he decided the pain at very least was to teach him and his companions God’s faithfulness and gave them both authority and ability to share that relationship and wisdom with others. Note- “others”. Personal -and- others…
Monastic Christianity? Of course history offers a great deal on the subject, both in terms of solitary lives and shared, more gathered groups, both who served and today serve. One size doesn’t fit all just as not only one call of God fits all Christ followers.
I’ve experienced these things on several levels while living all but the first 18 years of my life in close-knit Christian community where I still gladly, indeed happily live and serve to this day!
So allow me to also pop any romantic bubble of utopia the reader may have! 🙂
At very, very least one must sooner and later visit two issues again and again while living and serving in close proximity/community with others regardless of anything else. In fact these can ONLY happen by living out the Scriptures in real-time, sincerity and some level of community engagement with others.
Foot washing grace (forgiving one another) AND “Father, bless me that I will have to Bless others” (sharing).
Without these gathered community for the individual, family or small group is in my view, impossible and in reality nonexistent.
Can a desert father or mother forgive and serve others via thought, prayer and distance? Yes. But the balance is in my view the most sensible, approachable and of course difficult path.
My sense of some sort of perfect individual, contemplative OR corporate serving life in the body of Christ has long been packed away. Fantastic? Sometimes, yes!
Monastic (either as individual or corporate life focus) as per this or that order or specific intentional community? For some, either. For most of us? Both.
Meanwhile, “there is a time for every purpose under heaven”- and living out the kingdom of God in private/secret and public seems quite the passion and example of our Lord Jesus. Alone and together, serving. Washing feet, expecting and facing the dirt, forgiving, receiving forgiveness, sharing with a good heart all seems the reflection of Jesus the world needs.
For new or otherwise monastics, for what they are worth, these are my thoughts.
As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn