When a potential postulant enters a monastery, she is shown the boundaries within which she's to live. These have already been defined. She does not have to bring her own bricks and mortar and build them herself. All she must do is decide: shall I live within these walls... or not?
'You recognize that you have arrived at a limit, a barrier-line. Turn, then, and direct your steps, if you choose, to some other quarter. You cannot penetrate the sacred enclosure of the convent. It is a line drawn, a barrier set up, between the loose, miscellaneous world and the things of God.' (A Story of Courage, p. 8)
In the analogy of the Cloistered Heart, we view our enclosure as the will of God. We do not have to map the boundaries of such 'enclosure' for ourselves; they are clearly marked out for us in Scripture and 2,000 years of authentic Church discernment. We may welcome such boundaries, or we may choose to turn and direct our steps to some other quarter. But these are the boundaries God has given us; they reveal His will, in which He wants us to live. If we decide to tear down a wall here and move a fence there, then ours will not be the enclosure God has built for us. 'If you believe what you like in the Gospel,' wrote St. Augustine, 'and reject what you don't like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.'
Have we seen what happens when we try to make boundaries apart from God? We grasp for moral guidelines that, if we find them at all, are contrived and artificial. Using mere human efforts, we try to make peace happen - and it doesn't. The world outside of God's will is a loose mix of miscellany, and we can be hard pressed to make sense of it all.
Because God loves us, He has set boundaries in place for our security. 'Live in My will,' God tells me. 'Live in My will when you understand it and when you do not. Trust ME.' In the face of such an invitation, I have a choice to make. Yet God does not force me. I have been given free will, and I can choose whether to live as God asks, or to direct my steps to some other quarter.
Will I dwell in the security of God’s will?
Or must I insist on stumbling about in the hazards of my own.
"Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God's will, what is good, pleasing and perfect." (Romans 12:2)
Text not in quotes © 2016 N Shuman
Photo: N Shuman, Wall at Georgetown Visitation Monastery, DC, 1990s
This post is part of our series 'A Story of Courage.' To continue in chronological order, click this line.