a compost kind of week

It has been one of those weeks that seems ready made to teach me humility. In large and small ways I have found myself living into my character defects over and over and over again. Each time I’ve caught myself, I’ve wiped the dust from my knees, swearing not to take that particular road again, at least not this week, only to find myself in the same spot a day, or even an hour, later. My knees are getting a bit bruised!

During weeks like these I’m reminded of the advice our Founder gives in his rule. We will find it easier to make an offering of our whole lives to God, he says, if we can learn “to cultivate a sense of the limitations of our knowledge of even outward matters, and to treasure up instances in which our assured judgment has proven wrong.” It helps to take some of the sting out of my embarrassing (at least to me) forays into judgmentalism, envy, and hubris to recognize that these traits can be as great a treasure as all my seeming talents and gifts.

As several wise spiritual teachers have assured me over the years, nothing is wasted in God’s economy. I’m reminded of a letter I received from a friend about six months after I entered the monastery. In this letter my friend told me that she realized that because of various events from my past I had always longed for a community of loving men. Aware of that need, though, I surely ought to be able to leave the monastery and live a “normal” life. I talked to a nun friend of mine about these observations. She replied in such a matter-of-fact way that I could only laugh: “So what? You think God can’t use the painful things that have happened to you to bring you where you need to be?”

Yes, of course God can. The difficulty lies in my recognition that my foibles and failures are not bad, even though they might be painful and humbling to me. As psalm 139 so beautifully says, “darkness is not dark to [God.] The night is as bright as the day.” I’m the one who has trouble seeing.

Just as I am not the sum of my failures, so I am not the sum of my successes, either. My gifts are just that: tools that I have been given to cultivate the little plot of earth allotted to me during this lifetime, to dig in my own meager sweat and love to make the world a more beautiful, just, and harmonious place. My shortcomings are no less valuable to that work. The annoying thing is that my shortcomings may actually be more valuable to my own and others’ growth than my gifts. Compost is, after all, waste that has broken down into fertile and nutritious humus. There are weeks when I seem to myself more compost than peony. Ah, well. Such is the rhythm of this life, and I’m much richer for it.


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6 Replies to “a compost kind of week”

  1. I will never forget when a friend took her shovel into her compost spot and came out with the richest soil ever! Dark, smooth, damp, and with an aroma I don’t have a word for!

    All the,wastes were made into earthen gold!

    Now that is transformation!

    All of it just sits there as if nothing is happening while the worms silently do what they love for us and who know what else is going on!!!!

    Trust is in our eyes as we carry our pails of stuff to God and to our compost piles!

    Love you and thanks! On Feb 22, 2017 5:07 AM, “Grounding in the Spirit” wrote:

    > Brother Aidan, OHC posted: “It has been one of those weeks that seems > ready made to teach me humility. In large and small ways I have found > myself living into my character defects over and over and over again. Each > time I’ve caught myself, I’ve wiped the dust from my knees, swearing” >


  2. We’re in a February thaw here in Rochester, NY, and I went down to the garden today to see that the Solomon Seal has composted from last year… stalks turned to dried reeds and leaves white and soft as thin skin. I reached down and pulled away the debris to see the deep rich brown earth, moist and fertile. In a few weeks new stems will break through and a resurrection will take place. It’s all good.

    Thanks to Brother Aidan for planting seeds within us.


  3. How I miss all of those compost piles that I had to leave behind. The miraculous transformation always amazed me and how it nourished my gardens! Now my life has spiritual compost piles instead. And I am reminded of how patient I had to be for the results. Thank you.


  4. I really like the idea of seeing my “forays into judgmentalism, envy, and hubris ” as treasure, treasure which can be composted over time to make something rich with nutrients. That is a helpful thought that I will mull on for a while. Thank you, Aidan, as always, for your thought-provoking posts.


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