Thanks & Thoughts

This is my latest article for the parish newsletter:

My sabbatical was a wild and wonderful adventure into silence, experiencing a different culture, and the beginning of moving into a different space, inwardly and outwardly. I am very grateful to the Vestry and people of Calvary Church for affording me this experience.

This adventure was only the beginning of the experience. Life is best not measured by achivements and activities alone. They are not ends in themselves but markers on the journey, providing new insights and different perspectives. Monastic life follows a regular rhythm of prayer, work, study, rest, and prayer. This is a balance that is tough to maintain on one’s own, I’ve found. And, our culture does not support such a balance. As Richard Rohr has said, we live with a culture (and even a spirituality) of “addition.” We think we need to add more things, more experiences, more accomplishments. This makes religion a consumer product, and God just another trophy.

Instead, Rohr speaks of the ancient ways of a spirituality of subtraction. Letting go of the need to “achieve” and sloughing off the layers of false self that we put on. Not an easy road. Jesus went the road of emptying himself. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” (Philippians 2.5-7).

The Twelve Steps talk about surrender. Emptying and surrender are not things we “achieve,” but that happens in us and through us. Even there we cannot control it. By living in to new ways of thinking, acting, and being, things begin to slip away. Surrender begins to happen. For me, as I struggle with a sense of discipline, these things do not happen easily.

Shedding fear is, for me, one of the hardest things. To live as if it is no threat; to trust that I will not be conusmed; to act as if the grace of God (that I have experienced over and over again!) will indeed be present and active in my life.

Ugh! What a wondrous and high calling we do in fact share. And not an easy one, but indeed a gracious one. Trust in grace. Rely on love. Surrender to the One who loves us most freely, yet knows us most fully.


About Victor Mansfield

I'm mid-fifties, left-handed, right-brained, father of two, on a journey of surrender. Also, I'm an Episcopal priest, rector of Calvary Episcopal Church, Fletcher, NC.
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3 Responses to Thanks & Thoughts

  1. revdavidanderson says:

    Not about addition. Amen!

  2. Janet B Edwards says:

    I really appreciate your reflection! I am also struggling with discipline and balance!

  3. Michael says:

    Your last line reminds me of a semi-joke that one of my religious brothers used to make all the time. “My God,” he would say, “is all-merciful, but not necessarily all knowing.” As he was dying of AIDS, he experienced an amazing personal transformation in gratitude. I believe he died with the assurance that his God is indeed all-merciful BECAUSE all-knowing.

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