We recently hosted a Trappist monk at New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, NYC named Father Williams . What made him such a gift to us was not his eloquence, his well-crafted sermons, his cleverness, or capacity as a leader. His prayer life, his walk with Jesus, his interior life with God built over many years pulled us toward Jesus in a very different way. It was transformative to be around him. He spoke as one “with authority,” (even though he uses an I-Pad!) The following are a few of my personal summary insights out of our time together that I have been reflecting on:
- There is no greater gift in the universe than to have a desire for the Triune God.
- Loving God for His own sake is God’s heart for us.
- God takes us where we are, not where we are not.
- Contemplation is awe and wonder in the face of God.
- A life with God requires “holy leisure,” something we know little about in the United States.
- God leads us into a “litesome” darkness (Walter Hilton – 13th century). It is never a total darkness. It is a kind of darkness where there is too much brilliant light, so much so that we cannot see.
- There are four our levels of loving God (from William of Thierry): 1) Attraction/Desire; 2) Clinging; 3) Enjoyment even in sorrow; and 4) Union of Wills where my will is one with His.
- “He who the mind cannot grasp, the heart can embrace. Though we cannot understand God fully, we can hug Him.”
- God leads every believer to the experience of Jesus in Ps.22 and the cross. For this reason every wound is a grace. This process leads us to the fundamental level of self-knowledge which leads to humility which becomes love – the very center of genuine spirituality.
- To love God is to love who and what He loves, including our abusers, betrayers, enemies. Love of God and love of our enemies can never be separated.
I remain convinced that we need to learn from the contemplative orders to balance our fast-paced, active leadership styles. Those who have been given a call from God to follow the path of Elijah, Moses, and John the Baptist are among the most important people from whom we need to learn. From this place, they offer a gift to us as pastors/leaders. Do you think this is true? Why or why not?