Sit in your cell for it will teach you everything

Too many times we think that spirituality is something that we do. Perhaps it is our need to feel like we are in control of our own lives or perhaps it is just the way we have been taught, but doing is often not helpful for spiritual formation. 

There was a desert father called Abba Moses who once said, "Go sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything." It was also said that a monk outside of his cell is like a fish out of water, only able to live for a little while. 

Why would sitting in a cell be the great teacher to Abba Moses and the other desert Christians? 

I would suggest that sitting in a silent and quiet place helps God find us. 

Imagine you are in a totally dark forest. Imagine that God is also in this forest. You each are looking for each other. Because you are both moving it is much harder to locate each other. Your yelling out for God drowns out the still small voice of the one you are searching for. Groping among the trees, you grow frustrated at your inability to find the source of all life and love. And so you sit down.

And when you sit down, you finally hear what you could not hear before. You hear the still small voice. And, in due time, God finds you. 

Sit in your cell, for it will teach you everything.  

What I say to people who try but cannot connect to God

Many people have come into my office and ask some for of the following, "How do I find God?"

The assumption underlying this question is that God is somewhere else and that it is our quest as human beings to find where God is. Like Dorthy looking for the Great Wizard, we seek out a path that will take us to the one we desire to see. 

Most of the time, these people come with a sense of exhaustion and defeat. They have been trying to find God and yet it seems so illusive. They have tried all sorts of things, but nothing seems to draw them closer. So in their desperation I tell these weary travelers, the same thing:

Stop trying to find God. 

The entire Christian message of God coming in the life of Jesus Christ is a story about God finding humans. Jesus even shared different parables that expressed this. Such as a Shepard leaving his flock in order to find the one that is lost. The one sheep is not able to find the Shepard, but the Shepard can find it.

This coming Sunday marks a new year of the Christian calendar, we call this first season Advent. Advent means coming. That is to say, God is coming into this world in the life of Christ.

God is coming to find us all who are lost. God is coming to the broken world. God is coming to all of us who are unable to find him. God is coming to all of us. 

How Where's Waldo exposes a problem with Christianity

Where's Waldo may not be the cultural icon it was when I was a kid of the 1990's but I still see this little guy around sometimes in the bookstore (also seemingly a dying icon of my childhood). In case you are not aware of what "Waldo" is all about, it is a book where you search different scenes and try to find the "Waldo" character. Frustratingly simple and boy did I love it.

I would race my brother to determine who was the best Waldo-finder in our house. To this day I secretly assess if the person I am looking at a Waldo scene with it smarter then me based on how quickly they find him. Most of the time, everyone finds him before I do and thus I feel less smart by the end of the book. 

Where's Waldo is a fun little thing to do and I marvel at the imagination of the artists to draw such crazy scenes. There is also a sense of excitement when you begin to look, a sense of challenge sets in after a few minutes. Frustration can set in when you begin to convince yourself that Waldo is not in this scene at all and then the moment you find Waldo there is a sense of satisfaction and affirmation that you are encouraged to go through the whole process again and turn the page. It is the search that makes Waldo fun. 

Which is why one of the worsts gifts you can give is a Where's Waldo book with Waldo circled on every page in thick black marker. Sure the other person will always be able to quickly "find" Waldo in every scene, but you also have removed the joy of the search. 

Large parts of Christianity have become fixated on sharing our faith with others but doing so with all the answers already given. Some Christian communities tell you what the answers are to every question. When people are searching for the "real Noah's arc" they believe that in finding it they will answer the question and thus bring more people to the faith. I contest that in "proving" all sorts of things in Christianity surmount to marking up the faith with a thick black marker. Sure, you can see the "answer" but then the joy of the search is removed. 

Give me a blank Where's Waldo book anytime.