I nearly called this the confessions of a digitalnun. For some days I have been nibbling away at the community’s correspondence mountain and fretting that I haven’t been able to do what I wanted to do (finish re-jigging the monastery’s web sites). It has taught me a useful lesson. Neither the correspondence nor the web sites will ever reach a state of completion, when I can say that no more needs to be done. More than that, I’ll never be able to say that they’ve been dealt with perfectly. There will always be the letter or email I haven’t answered adequately, or clearly or kindly enough to satisfy its recipient; and web sites are out of date almost as soon as they are uploaded. It is in that imperfection, however, that I think we make room for the Holy Spirit. The moment we drop our own ideas about how it should all go, we allow a chink for him to act; and reluctant though we may be to concede the point, his ideas are invariably better than ours.
Most of us like the illusion of control. We are ‘the masters of our fate, the captains of our soul’. Possibly; but trouble comes when we try to make others share our illusions or subscribe to our version of reality. I can best illustrate this with a simple example. Occasionally, we receive enquiries from people who are thinking about vocation but who have forgotten, or are perhaps unwilling to acknowledge, that there are three parties involved: God, themselves and the community. It is no good presenting the community with a detailed programme of what is expected of it, anymore than it would be to demand that God endorse our ideas about things, or for the community to expect the candidate to have attained perfection. (As D. Elizabeth Sumner was wont to remark, ‘Why enter a monastery if you’ve already attained the Seventh Mansion?’) We have to explore, be open, be honest, listen hard, reflect, trusting that the other party will do the same and that God will be involved in the process. It cannot be rushed. What is true of discernment of vocation is also true of much of life. We have to check the inner clamour so that we may hear what God has to say, and, if my experience is anything to go by, he usually speaks through other people or through events.
So, this morning, as I dutifully set about the correspondence backlog, I shall try to keep in mind that what I want may not be the best that is possible. Tinkering with our web sites may be fun, and I have no objection to fun, but there may be something more important for me to attempt. It may not seem important to me, but it matters to God; and that is surely what counts.