Why Am I “Unbalanced”?
Why do I call myself the Unbalanced Benedictine?
There are two reasons.
First, I don’t want to give the impression that I have it all figured it out. Practicing Benedictine spirituality in the middle of my crazy secular existence is a constant challenge. This blog will describe some things I’ve done that have worked well and some things that haven’t. And I’ll be honest about what I’ve learned from both. I’m sure I’m not the only unbalanced Benedictine out there, and I want to provide a safe place for others who feel this way.
Let me be clear: I’m not a good Benedictine role model. You won’t find me consistently praying the Hours or keeping a regular meditation practice. I don’t have uplifting spiritual encounters or insights every time I sit down for Lectio Divina. I’d love to be able to do all that, and it’s what I strive for, but that’s not where I am. I’m writing this blog as a companion for anyone else who struggles with incorporating the Rule of St. Benedict into their secular lives.
Second, I want to challenge the whole notion of Benedictine spirituality being about balance.
Striving for Balance
Conventional wisdom holds that the Benedictine life is—by definition—a life of balance. The Rule of St. Benedict prescribes times for corporate prayer, private devotion, work, rest, and taking meals. What can be more balanced than that?
When I first began taking the Rule seriously, that sense of balance really appealed to me. At the time I was homeschooling my two young children. I was also responsible for all the financial and administrative work for my husband’s consulting company. And I did all the other things a modern wife and mother does. I was too busy, and my spiritual life was virtually nonexistent. There was no time for me figure out who I was as a person. Benedictine balance seemed like the perfect solution.
But it wasn’t.
I added morning and evening prayer to my daily routine, along with regular bible reading. I set rigid boundaries around “school” time, “work” time, “faith” time, and “me” time. This, I believed, would achieve the balance I was looking for.
All it did was give me more things to fail at.
And fail I did. I was a very unbalanced Benedictine.
But I kept with it.
It’s Not About Balance
Over time I’ve discovered that Benedictine spirituality is not actually about balance. It’s about putting God first and seeing God in everything. Yes, scheduling specific times for prayer and devotion is helpful and beneficial. But treating these things as ‘tasks’ that need to be checked off my to-do list is not helpful. Deepening my relationship with God is not something I’ll ever complete. Nor is it something that I can only accomplish through formal prayer or bible reading.
God is in my prayer time, yes, but God is also in my relationships with my husband and children. God is in my paid and unpaid work, my leisure time, and everything else I do.
My life, like most people’s, is not in balance. And it probably never will be. Sometimes my husband needs more attention than I’d ‘planned’ to give him on a given day. Or my kids (now teenagers) will have some crisis that requires my immediate and undivided attention. Occasionally my body gives out and demands extra rest. Also, being a writer means now I have deadlines. And I have to be attentive to all of it.
And the Rule allows for this. In fact, the Rule was designed for this. While Benedict does prescribe set times for prayer, work, etc., he also allows for a lot of variance, depending on local conditions and individual frailties. But in all cases, the Rule of St. Benedict keeps one’s focus on God, and that’s the heart of Benedictine spirituality.
My life is unbalanced. It’s also Benedictine. And I truly believe that the lack of balance is part of what makes it Benedictine. A Benedictine life is not about achieving perfect balance; it’s about embarking on a journey to God and with God.
I’m on that journey. I’m sharing it on this blog. And I encourage any other unbalanced Benedictines to join me.