Whenever school/my job/life gets crazy and stressful, I long for “one day” when everything will be simple and easy. Of course, I know that my “one day” fantasy is just that: a fantasy. Because every time I overcome one challenge, another one is ready to stand in my way. I’m not trying to complain or sound self-pitying here; it’s just that this semester especially, with this new magazine job, has been incredibly challenging, and as soon as one issue is resolved another one rears its head, oftentimes uglier than whatever came before it.
In my “one day” fantasy, Jordan and I live in a nice apartment or house somewhere. He’s finished grad school and I have a 9 to 5 job that leaves me with evenings off to take care of our kids and practice effortless domesticity. In reality, I know that even if all of these things came true, it wouldn’t be simpler or easier. I’m sure it will only be more difficult, but I console myself with the hope that by then, I’ll just have more practice dealing with difficult things. I’ll have a tougher skin and more mistakes under my belt to learn from.
When I truly long for simplicity, though, I long for monasticism. I never plan on becoming a nun (obviously, with the whole marriage thing), but sometimes I long for the simple, faith-full life that monastics lead. Over Labor Day weekend, we visited an Orthodox monastery in northern New Mexico, about an hour north of Santa Fe. There was a guest house with a kitchen, small cells where each of the monks lived (probably no bigger than a large walk-in closet), and a small church, all nestled in a valley surrounded by dessert mountains, making it feel incredibly isolated and peaceful. Sometimes I wish I could flee to the desert like the first monks and nuns did in ancient times; but while this desire is fueled by my wanting to be closer to God and more fully focused on my faith, it is also fueled by fear. I’m afraid of the challenges in my life, and the unknown ones that lie in the future, so I want to flee.
But my life is not that of a monastic. I must live in the life I have been given by God, and even though I can’t escape to the desert and leave everything scary and challenging behind (how naive I sound; as if monastics don’t face fear or challenges), I can still partake in the perfect peace that surpasses all understanding that God freely offers. I try to focus myself by repeating the Jesus prayer throughout the day: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I try to remember what’s truly important, and what I truly need: not relief from stress, but mercy on my soul.
I suppose this longing for simplicity will never fully go away, until perhaps this life is over and I enter into the full presence of God. But then again, simplicity is not what I truly need, either, and it was never promised to me as part of this life. Only in Christ is true peace found.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” – John 15:33