After reading a draft of my memoir a few weeks ago, one of my brothers asked if I intended to publish it. My first response was an immediate “of course!” What’s the point of writing if no one is going to see it? I set my quick response aside, though, and decided to take his question seriously.
I initially wrote this book three years ago. I couldn’t manage to finish it, so I set it aside. I only came back to it a few months ago, because I felt God calling me to do so. I’ve finished this second draft as a matter of faithfulness. If I’m to continue it that way, then I have to be honest that, though God may have called me to write it, I’m not at all clear that God is calling me to publish it. Hence taking seriously my brother’s question.
No sooner did my immediate “why not publish” arise than the flashes of ego started their storming. I could see all the prizes and accolades, the interviews with Terry Gross and maybe even Oprah, and all the new vocations flooding into the Monastery. I’d be a big star–and humble, too, because I’m a monk. Really, I owed it to my brothers and to the world to publish. It would be selfish not to!
At this point I began to feel a little sick of the voice in my head. That’s always a good moment to invite God in, if I haven’t already. Usually, I haven’t.
Into the cacophony came a sweet whisper: “hidden with Christ in God.”
Over the course of the week, the phrase became my prayer. As I sat on the little cloister with our big oak tree waiting to ring the bell, I kept coming back to it. Hidden with Christ in God. As I walked by the River for the first time in months, there it was. Hidden with Christ in God. When the parade of ego began its march, the phrase walked beside me. Hidden with Christ in God.
What is the value of a hidden a life, I wonder? I mean the question in a very personal way. What would it mean for my life to be hidden in God rather than laid bare for all the world to see? It’s a strange question to be asking, when I have written and shared hundreds of thousands of words about myself over the years. Still, I feel the invitation of that phrase. Some part of my soul deep deep down, way beneath the fear of obscurity, tastes the sweetness of the invitation. There’s rest in that calling, and the promise of God’s cool and soothing touch.
A good friend asked me, “what’s beneath the fear of obscurity?” As I thought about her question, I realized that writing about myself and sharing that writing with others has been a way of asserting my existence. I put these words on the screen. You read them and often respond to them. And I know that I’m real. I suppose I’ve always worried that beneath the words, I don’t really exist. That there’s not a me there (the Buddhists would exclaim “yes!” right about now.). Who am I, if I’m not reflected back to myself through another’s eyes?
The whispered invitation persists. To find myself hidden away with Christ in God. To trust that hidden in God, I don’t need to make myself or find myself. That in the secrecy of God I already am, and fully so. That I can lay down the effort and rest.
I think I want to try something different, to entertain my second or third or even tenth impulse rather than the first. If only to see what happens when I don’t immediately cooperate with my obsessions and illusions. For now, that means waiting and listening. Not a bad practice for the second half of Lent, or anytime, for that matter.