Monday, July 14, 2014

Patterns (Monday Morning in the Desert)

As my 44th birthday rolls around next month, the thought has occurred to me that I am almost halfway through the "regular" working years of my life - I finished law school and started practicing law when I was still 24 years old, so assuming that I work until my mid-60s, I have completed approximately half of my work life.

As I look toward the second half of my work life, the patterns that have developed during the first half will shape the future of my vocational path.  In my law practice, I have always preferred resolving disputes through reconciliation as opposed to the lengthy and sometimes soul-killing process of litigation.  I still litigate on behalf of a client when necessary, but upon recognizing the pattern of preferring reconciliation to litigation, I have sought out training in mediation, and have served as a mediator in certain cases.

My life as an ordained pastor (3 1/2 years) is much shorter than my career as a lawyer, but I have been doing it long enough to recognize certain patterns there as well - this blog has documented the development of my thoughts on how to incorporate the Benedictine way into my personal spiritual life, as well as into ministry in the context of a small Lutheran congregation.  The next step on this path will begin this fall, when I enroll in a two-year course on spiritual direction taught at a nearby Benedictine monastery.  

In other words, it took me approximately two decades - half of my work life - to finally figure out what I want to do when I grow up!  

It is through the patterns that have occurred in our lives that we can get a sense of where God is calling us to go.  Many times, we cannot see those patterns in our own lives, so we rely on others to identify those patterns for us.

St. Seraphim of Sarov was a hermit monk who lived in nineteenth century Russia, who had the gift of seeing patterns in the lives of people who sought his counsel.  He had these words to say about discerning God's will for our lives through recognizing those patterns:

"The visible pattern of every single life is of God's choosing.  We only have to become conscious of it, follow it courageously, and see that we don't distort God's intention.  No two leaves on a tree are perfectly alike. Neither are any two lives. Everyone must strive to fill this unique life of his own with a love of God so constant and so great that it flares up into a luminous love of man. Listen, my joy, we... must learn to feel, discern and understand.  This only comes through years of reflecting on good and evil. Then we see things good and bad, in the light of God's wisdom: and then we develop the gift of true discrimination without which no one dare guide others...... Try to see how the pattern behind the events of today is transformed into the pattern behind the events of tomorrow."

(Quoted at p. 51 of "A Simplified Life" by Verena Schiller).


  1. Good post. True -- we are all different. My question: Is it possible to have Unity and Diversity in the Church? If it is possible, how can this be achieved in practical terms?

    Diversity within Unity. In the Catholic Church there are diverse religious orders: Benedictines, Jesuits, Franciscans; there are Liberals and Conservatives; but they are all in unity within the Church under the Unity of Peter.

    As I see it, the only way Unity can be achieved in the Church is to follow a plain-meaning reading of Mt 16:18 and allow Peter to be the Rock of Unity. Anyone who may think "Peter" is in error can dissent and work for reform within the Church, as the Saints did. As always, on another level, Christ is the Unity of All Christians.

    1. Kathy, there are many Church Fathers who disagree with such a reading of the text. Check out the link.

    2. Paul, thanks for responding. The Catholic Church has had countless millions of members in 2,000 years. Each one of us has an opinion. Martin Luther had an opinion. That is not the point. It is the Magisterium, together with the entire Church, that decides Doctrine.

      What is the alternative? Well, for example, the Assemblies of the ELCA -- quota-based and democratic.