by Collette Jones, oblate class of 2015
My year-long period of formal oblate formation ended in April of this year. Our class shared our personal rules with each other and the sisters. We made our vows of commitment as an oblate during the beautiful and meaningful service at Holy Wisdom Monastery. (Collette is pictured on that day, right, photo by Kathleen Wessels)
Now comes that inevitable shift in energy and focus after a significant and long anticipated event, a shift that leaves us feeling a bit disoriented and adrift. After something like a graduation or a holiday or maybe that first all-clear PET scan, the unsettling question nibbles away at our joy or equanimity: Now what?
Benedict’s concept of balance in our lives is one of the aspects of the Rule of Benedict that I find so attractive and important. Benedict partitions off the day into times of prayer, work and study—both reflecting and nourishing the values of a well-lived Christian life. I longed for that lovely balance and rhythm. My personal rule reflects it: daily I will do this; weekly I will do that; monthly I will do this, trying to craft the balance. And daily, weekly and monthly I have failed, fallen short. Yes, I know such failure is inevitable. Benedict anticipates it and addresses it when he says “always, we begin again.”
I am beginning to sense, however, that this striving for the elusive goal of balance is effort misspent and doomed to discouraging failure. The word balance itself conjures up an image of stuff measured out on one of those balancing scales: x units of prayer = y units of work.
This concept of balance is too static to describe the flow and exchange of energy that I have begun to experience living into the Rule. If I skip morning prayer in favor of weeding the garden in the cool of the morning, I find my heart cracking open to the beauty of the day and to creation and I begin singing the doxology. When I am praying the psalms, the perfect angle for Sunday’s sermon suddenly unfolds, and I jot a few notes down before returning to the psalm. And when I push back from my writing desk in defeat because the words will not come, my dog grabs the nearest tennis ball and races for the door so joyfully I must agree, time for a walk.
Balanced? I have no idea. But I am beginning to experience how the energies of work, prayer, study and leisure amplify and move, opening my heart and mind to God’s loving presence in us and among us.