This is the third in Susan Murphy’s Alongsider series. Murphy is the first woman ever invited to live as an Alongsider with the Anglican Sisters at the convent for The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine in Toronto. Susan also worships and serves at Markham Baptist Church, Markham.
Post Christmas, my life at the convent resumed its normal rhythm - a constant juggling of convent work, studies, daily services, household responsibilities and community time. By the end of January, in the midst of this chaotic pace, I still had no sense of the balance and solitude I felt God had led me to actively seek as an Alongsider. But frankly, I was too busy to do anything about it.
Then a curious thing occurred. I was scheduled for a week’s vacation. Being a true introvert, my idea of a real vacation has always been to go away up north to be alone. This year, not having the resources to get away, I decided to spend the week visiting friends and family. Each night I stayed at a different house, spending evenings with my generous hosts. During the days, I caught up with others over meals out. It was a week of many deep conversations, much laughter and even a few tears. I replenished friendships and strengthened family bonds.
When I returned home at the end of the week, what struck me was how energized I felt. Somehow, at least for this short time, I had become an extrovert - someone who gets their energy from being with others. I had just spent a week of almost non-stop talking –counterintuitive for an extreme introvert like me. Yet somehow I had known what I’d needed. Was there something in this monastic lifestyle that had changed my core nature? Or perhaps more accurately, had something changed that now allowed my true nature to emerge?
I met with a new spiritual director just after my vacation. Explaining my Alongsider journey to date, I lamented that I had not yet found the elusive balance and solitude to which I had sensed God calling me. I wondered aloud about my vacation experience and what might have changed to cause such a shift. My director’s observation struck a chord within my soul: “You say that don’t think you’ve found balance and solitude yet, but somehow I think that it may have found you!”
In Matthew 6, Jesus encourages us not to worry. Though He speaks of specific worries – food, clothing, shelter – He begins His teaching with a broad statement: “Do not be anxious about your life . . . ” (Matthew 6:26, ESV). I suspect Jesus understood that worrying about our spiritual lives distracts and drains us as much as when we worry about our material needs. Perhaps the structure and routine of this monastic life has allowed me to rightly seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness and the promise has been fulfilled and “these things” have “been added unto me” (Matthew 6:33) Thought to ponder in the coming months. But not now - I am too busy!
Follow Susan between her column instalments at her blog: http://alongsider.wordpress.com