For quite a long time, I have joked about my desire to become a monk. Not a traditional monk seeing as I am not Catholic, pre-marriage I wanted to get married (and get to have sex if we’re being totally honest), and now seven plus years into marriage continue to like how the marital arrangement is working out. But I could become some sort of Protestant monk in which I get to remain married and not be subservient to the Pope, but still get to wear the cool robe and be a part of an Order, which is ten times cooler than any club you can join as an adult.
And there are times when I still fantasize about that being the answer. Frankly, there are times that I get tired of the world. I grow exhausted by the way in which I let myself get dragged down by the constant barrage trumpeting the pursuit of self, sex, and success. I am drained by how the church often responds by merging with politics or worldly definitions of success and turns the gospel into pithy little sayings that are far less profound than our tweets would have us believe.
There are times that I just want to unplug, take my wife and son to the countryside, start up an order of Protestant monks, work with my hands, help the poor, pray more, have chapel services three times a day, and generally be a happier, less cynical person.
Yet in my heart of hearts, I know the real reason that I want to do that is to run away. I am not saying that is why most people enter the monastic life, but it would be the case for me. There are these tensions in my world that I do not necessarily like dealing with and in my non-confrontational, oldest sibling-borne, peacemaking, keep-everyone-happy default mode, ducking out is the most attractive response to those tensions.
But running away is never the best option. It would mean that I am basically giving up, that I am deciding not to engage those things that I think could be better. And as hard as it is for my introverted self to engage with those things (Am I being vague? Yes! See that sequence a few lines previous starting with “non-confrontational”?), I do believe I have a calling. It is one that I am still hashing out, but it is a calling nonetheless. I don’t want to give up.
Lest you think my sole reason for staying is some sort of arrogant messianic complex, let me assure you of my own very screwed up nature. For when I talk about being dragged down earlier that meant I have a long, long way to go in the maturity department. Running away in this hypothetical scenario would mean that I would not be owning up to my crap. I could run, but my problems would run with me stride for stride.
A fresh start can help people heal or face their problems, but only if they are willing to put in the work. Running away is just denial. I would think I’m doing better because of the religious aspects of my Protestant monkhood, but I wouldn’t be dealing with my shortcomings. It would just avoid the root of my problems until they grew into something that would hurt me and those around me.
So I don’t think I’m going to go start a Protestant monastic community. At least not yet. I need to stay, I need to grow, I need to engage my world in a Christ-like way; even the aspects of it that drive me nuts. The Prociscans (Protestant Franciscans, temporary name) will have to wait. God help me to be generally happier, less cynical, and more dependent on You where I am.
Besides, I don’t think EA would be too eager to sign up for the pulling up stakes and moving to the countryside plan anyway. And I like her far too much.