I’m sitting in a simple but comfortable room perched on a hillside just North of Pecos, NM at a Benedictine Monastery. A monk name Brother Todd, whom I have yet to meet in person, sent me an email Thursday, responding with a “yes” to my question of “I know it is unlikely, but do you have any space available for a soul longing for silence and solitude this weekend?”
So here I sit in silence and solitude, with the exception of mealtime, where the monastic community and its guests all eat together in silence.
I resolved to speak only when spoken to, but even so, I have been spoken to by several. Linda, who works here, and Edgar, a seminarian stationed here temporarily, who kindly greeted me upon my arrival and showed me to my hermitage. A sweet and very talkative woman (who couldn’t resist speaking to a young lady next to her even during dinner) engaged with me as I finished eating and was making my way back to my cove. Jose, who along with his wife, has been here for a week taking an iconography class, and is staying next week for a stained glass course, offered to show me around. That is to name a few.
Without asking them to know for sure, I found myself formulating the reasons that may have brought them to a monastery. I think Linda is a devoted Catholic and eager to serve in Catholic institutional ways. Edgar was assigned to live here this last year before he graduates, I believe. I think the talkative woman is looking for someone who will listen to her, really listen to her, beyond her words (of which there are many). I think Jose, who lives in Maryland, but used to live in Santa Fe, really wants to support this Monastery, which has threatened to close it’s doors if it can not come up with ways to keep from losing money.
I can only guess, really, as to what brings any of these others here.
But I know why I came. I came to see God.
Now, did I have to drive the 4 hours from my home to do this? Do I think there is some special measure of God’s presence here vs. there? Did the ascent from about 3,600 feet above sea level in Amarillo the 7,000 feet of Pecos somehow bring me closer to Him?
Of course not.
But what I did need, and desperately so, was to exit stage left from the noise and normalcy of my life (as blessed and saturated with God-stuff as it is) in order to narrow my focus onto only one goal, tune my ears into only one frequency, fill my mind with only one thought, leverage my energies for only one project, and pour my whole self into only one relationship. Put simply, I came here to obey with unusual fervor part 1 of the Greatest Command, to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
And I have.
As I come upon the midway point of expressing this single-minded affection towards God in this unique way, I can see clearly how far I have left this practice in the midst of my normal ways. I needed this departure from the people and circumstances in my life, who were (by no fault of their own) distracting me from seeing God, so that I can return to those people and circumstances in my life, and once again see God in (and through, and behind, and over) them.
The power of this is to once again embrace that I don’t need the people or circumstances in my life to change at all in order to see God in them.
The key is purity within me. My understanding is that when the Bible uses the word purity, it is not talking about sinlessness, but single-mindedness, or singleness of motive in the heart.
Singular devotion to God and God alone.
So, when one desires nothing more (or less) than God… when that affection for Him has no equal and no competitor… then one is operating in purity of heart.
And Jesus makes a promise to us about it: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Come on up out of the mediocrity of your lives, people, and hear some of the most helpful, bold, and exciting words that Christ ever uttered. With these words, Jesus promises something that God Himself said no man could do and live (Ex 33:20)! And yet here we are, our deepest souls testifying that no man can do without it and live.
Evidently, there is one type of human being that can see God and live…the pure in heart.
Well then…create in me a pure heart, oh God, that I may see You.