Being a momma of three active boys means my life involves a daily dose of monkey business. Superhero showdowns, wrestling matches on the trampoline (which looks eerily similar to an MMA cage), water balloon fights and America Ninja Warrior training on the bunk beds are the common fare in our family. While I love this crazy life, I also desperately need to fight to find time for my own monk-y business.
“We each have, I believe, a solitary, a monk, within us. This is the part of us that needs rich, creative, and nurturing time alone with ourselves and with God.”
These words written by Peter Scazzzero in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality deeply resonated with and gave words to my own experience of needing to take care of my inner monk.
The necessary tasks of making meals and money, balancing relationships and checkbooks and keeping home and hearth can often leave us exhausted. When it seems there are more demands than there are days, it is all to easy to ignore or completely deny the monk within each of us; however, when life is full and we feel like pies sliced eight ways to feed twelve people, we would do well to steal away a few moments to nurture our inner monks.
Souls tend to be shy creatures, and they don’t respond well to rigid schedules. They don’t nag nearly as persistently as small children, and they won’t practice the same loud, in-your-face advertising as the prevailing industries. They require some coaxing to show themselves; likewise, their whispers can only be heard when competing noises are turned down significantly.
In his book Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer beautifully captures the strong, yet shy nature of the soul.
“The soul is like a wild animal – tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy. It we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do it go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.”
As you know, these ideal conditions don’t simply present themselves; they have to be fought for and arranged with an uncommon intentionality.
Monk-y business requires us to set aside and guard chunks of unhurried time as if our life depended on it, as it truly does. We will have to say no to many things, often good or even great things, in an effort to nurture the greater things. We will need teams of people surrounding us, championing us, often running interference for us, so that our souls have a fighting chance of growing, even thriving in a soul-shrinking society.
My weekly Sabbath time provides an island of monk-y business in the midst of the monkey business. I wish it were a slow, lazy day, but in reality, it looks like two to four hours alone on Sunday afternoons. I have rarely missed one of these divine appointments since my first son was born, and the few times that I have, I have felt the loss immediately. The whole family is on board for this Sabbath time, as they realize that I come back a more doting spouse and a more patient parent. I don’t just look forward to this time, my soul deeply depends upon it.
My inner monk gets to come out of hiding each Sunday to be fed and nurtured, allowed to have time where I demand nothing of it. Some days we just sit for nearly a half hour before I even remember I have a lucid thought, let alone an inner monk. Some days we study Greek words, some days we hike, some days we write. My inner monk loves coffee, so that always plays a prominent part in our time. My inner monk needs to be fed the Word of God daily, but loves to feast these few hours a week.
Contrary to the lies of our flesh and our society, this is not a waste of time, but rather the most important time I spend all week.
When our inner monks are regularly known, seen, heard and addressed by the Living God through the Living Word, we are equipped and even energized to handle the rest of the monkey business that our lives most certainly entail.