I've just been reading Ruth Burrows' The Essence of Prayer, and I've been thinking about this quote (p. 169):
"To expose ourselves generously to the demands of community life; to refuse to shirk them in any way is to expose ourselves to God, allowing Him to purify us through others, shatter our illusions with humbling self-knowledge, divest us of everything selfish and enable us to love others with a pure, mature, disinterested love. Surely this is true for whoever would follow Our Lord closely, whatever their form of life."
How true is that?!
I've been struggling with community living a bit lately--in part because I'm spending a lot more time at home, recovering (still!) from illness. So I think I need to make this quote my mantra for a while.
Burrows writes in the context of a Carmelite monastery, where most enter expecting solitude, but where there is also structured and required community time. Time with others that cannot be missed.
One of the things I'm learning is that piece of "humbling self-knowledge." For me, that's usually about my reactions to other people. I know that when I'm particularly tired, or sad, or distracted, or any other number of things, that's when I'm most difficult to be around. To get out of that, sometimes it takes a very strong movement of my will… I just need to decide that I'm not going to act that way. It demands that I be in touch with how I feel and how others perceive my reactions. Not an easy thing, that self-knowledge, especially when the self I see is not being very nice (even if I might feel justified in my negativity, which I sometimes do!).
The other piece of that quote that strikes me is the ability "to love others with a pure, mature, disinterested love." To me, that's about doing something for someone else just because it's the right thing to do. It reminds me of my best friend and her newborn. She's permanently at his side right now--he needs her selfless attention. That is pure love.
Community certainly is an experience of growth in God. I would add to the quotation that part of that humbling experience is allowing ourselves to be loved and cared for by others. Being open to another's love is sometimes harder than loving. In doing so, we recognize our own loveable-ness. If we are paying attention, we also see that they love us even though they know our faults.
If my community can love me with all my faults and not-nice moments, how much more does God love me with all my spots!