In a town that used to be home there was a wealthy guy named--for the sake of anonymity I’ll call him this--John Miller. He made a lot of money in another state, and he was a public figure in town and often visited other churches and tried to influence churches and the community; to me he was an ever-present nuisance. When I was moving away from the area I told a friend, “I’m so glad I won’t have to deal with John Miller anymore.” My friend replied, “There will always be a John Miller wherever you go.”
My friend was right. If I ran away from one problem in one place I’d find another similar problem in another place. The idea that I could escape one irritating person and find some perfect place without anyone to trouble me is an illusion. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, talking about stability. Benedict, in the first chapter of his Rule, lists four type of monks. He likes the Cenobites, those who live in a monastery under a rule and abbot, and the Anchorites or Hermits he sees as the Green Berets of monks, those who have progressed to where they can battle evil in the arena of solitude. Benedict doesn’t like the Sarabaites, monks who live without any rule to guide them, and he detests the Gyrovagues, monks who go from place to place bouncing from one monastery to the next. Benedict says, “Always on the move, they never settle down, and are slaves to their own wills and gross appetites.” For Benedict, staying in one place and living under a rule was the only way to live the monastic life.
Our problems can be our greatest opportunities. The person who irritates us, usually there is something within ourselves that causes us to be irritated. When I deeply dislike another, if I look closely enough I’ll find there is something in myself that I dislike that causes me to dislike this other person. If I run from that person I never learn and grow. If I stay and face the problem, then I usually face the pain within myself, and I hopefully then grow and overcome. Benedict knew this. For him it was essential to be in one place under a rule. For Benedict no good happened in running off to the next place. Staying is the only option.
"In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome." - Rule of St. Benedict