By John Pierce

During my years in campus ministry, I enjoyed visits (often with students in tow) to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Ga., east of Atlanta. Despite my deep admiration for those within this monastic community, not once was I tempted to join. In fact, some of that had to do with temptations.

And with Roman Catholic hierarchy that runs counter to my Baptist roots. And wake-up calls (although I’d do OK with that one now). And all those things a monk must vow to not do.

And if able to scale that seven-storey mountain of insurmountable obstacles, I’d still have to bow out. The long periods of silence required to be a contemplative fail me.

The length of one’s personal “quiet time” was the measuring stick of spirituality among many Christian college students of my era. (Missing, of course, was the recognition that a sign of spiritual immaturity is bragging about the length of one’s personal devotion time.) But I’ve always felt a little guilty that I tend to pray fast and then get to work on something.

So yesterday morning, when a young leader at a conference called for a time of silence, my response was less than eagerness for such respite. After an early-morning rise, a quiet (except for a little country music and scattered traffic reports) 90-minute drive and more than ample hazelnut coffee, I was ready to charge ahead.

But the call to silence could not be avoided, so I gave it a shot. And it felt good. Similar opportunities in the past have served me well too. So I wondered why initiating such experiences on my own is so difficult.

Personality type is one factor — although I’m much less the extravert than in years past and enjoy solitude. However, I tend to prefer physical activity along with my mental relaxation. (That way I get two things “done” at the same time.)

Reflective? Yes. Contemplative? Not so much.

Perhaps some of it has to do with an upbringing in which the worst thing that could be said of someone is that he or she is lazy.

Admittedly, I’m industrious. A lot of satisfaction comes from the efficient use of time and resources to whittle down my growing “to do” list. Productivity pleases me — and gives me a sense of self worth.

However, this brief moment of forced contemplation was unexplainably beneficial. And it caused me to remember anew that life is about more than what one can physically accomplish in a given time.

So while the monastery still has no need to keep the light on for me, I’m going to give contemplation a little more time and attention — even as deadlines and “to do” lists nip at my stilled heels.


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