I miss the time when I knew everything. Most of us have those times in our lives. Usually they come during the teenage years or in our early 20's. But pastors have another chance to know everything. It happens when we graduate from seminary.
We enter seminary in a state of excitement which soon gives way to uttter confusion. There is so much to learn and a good deal of it is hard to learn, at least for a 40 something brain.If you don’t believe me try learning Hebrew after you’ve been out of school for a long time! We learn all about the sin of envy when we watched the seniors, aka students in their third and last year of study. They knew everything! At least it seemed that way. And when we became seniors we thought we knew everything too! Wrong!
Our real awakening comes when we are first ordained. That seems especially true for those who are solo or senior pastors. It took me about a week, or less, to figure out I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. All that learning from seminary was good, useful, and necessary. But I found I still knew so little that it was close to nothing. I’ve learned a lot since then, but I still have so much to learn that I will never learn it all, not by a longshot.
When I first traveled to my spiritual home, St. Benedict’s Abbey, I thought I was going to meet the people who did know everything. Imagine my surprise when it was emphasized that a monastery is not the home of spiritual giants but beginners in the faith. They followed a way that Benedict described as “a School of the Lord’s Service;” a place where beginners strive to grow in their relationship with God.
There is a certain relief in realizing that monks have the same problems and temptations as everyone else. But at the same time there is a reminder that they also have the Rule as a constant reminder of their need for constant conversion; falling and getting up again and again but persisting in walking Christ’s Way.
For me an Oblate of St. Benedict’s Abbey, there Rule is also a reminder of how little I know about the Way; how little I know about my own walk with God. Thank you Father Benedict for your reminder of how little I know. It’s the best reminder I know to keep my mind constantly open to learn and grow, as I study in your school.