Monastics had the right idea prioritizing prayer and time with God. The way they went about it, however - secluding themselves, not eating, not sleeping, not bathing - is not, in my opinion, the best way of going about fostering a relationship with God. (Especially when the focus was taken off of God and was instead put onto little competitions... who could stay on their pillar the longest, who could stand on one leg on their pillar the longest, etc.)
Basil the Great (a bishop in the 300's, and later a saint) also believed this and came up with a Rule that changed Monasticism. He put emphasis on helping the needy, underprivileged, and sick. He also emphasized community life and liturgical prayer. (Liturgical prayer is a set prayer that everyone says at the same time). Basil encouraged the study of Scriptures, eating three square meals a day, and the good old eight hours of sleep. He reasoned that if you deprive yourself of fellowship, rest, and food, what kind of state are you in to help others?
I'll be honest, I haven't been having the best week. My mom (confidant and best friend) is sick and I've been feeling pretty lonely. Self-doubts feed and fester on my brain every few weeks and last night it was looking rather like they had decided to attack while my flank is down sick. My brain sounded rather like this last night: "DOWN ONCE MORE TO THE DUNGEON OF MY BLACK DESPAIR... DOWN WE PLUNGE TO THE PRISON OF MY MIIINNDDD"
Which is when I went on Leslie Ludy's blog (check her out, she's an amazing woman) and found this post.
You don't have to read it, I'll recap it a bit for you. She talks about the voice of discouragement and then gives some tips on how to combat it.
I love the first one: turning outward. If our focus is on serving and praying for others, we can't be focusing on ourselves and those discouraging thoughts that wage war against our true identity: Child of God.
Most people - if left mostly to themselves - will think only of themselves. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights is a good example. He grew up in a very secluded family circle, on the moors of England, where the only person who loved him was Catherine Earnshaw. He is a very selfish man, who cares only for himself and Catherine. His selfish desires to have revenge on those who hurt him cause him to be cruel to everyone in the novel. If things don't go his way, he punishes the person(s) at fault with beatings (both physically and verbally).
It's been slowing dawning on me the past two days that when I've been
alone for awhile (like this week - with my mom sick, we haven't been
able to go anywhere) I immediately start to think about myself.
Sometimes I'm trying to figure out what to do to keep myself
entertained. But just as often, or more often, I'm thinking, wondering,
and worrying about my future. Those self-doubts sneak in and set up a
That's why it's not good to be a hermit. I've said it before and I'm sure I will say it a million more times before I die:
God created us to be in relationship with one another, to be in fellowship with one another.
God knew that it was not good for man to be alone, so he made Eve.
What happened when Eve was off by herself? A serpent came and tempted her, and she ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and sin entered the world.
God knows that when we're continually alone, when we're hermits, there's more of a chance that sin will get to us.
We're created to be in relationship with each other. This doesn't exclusively mean fellowship, though. Basil the Great knew that. That's why he made service such a big part of his ministry. That's why he started hospitals. When our focus is on others, our focus can't be on ourselves. Here's a few good ways for focusing on others:
1. Make time to pray for people.
2. Get to know people. This one is, perhaps, the most difficult. In this age of technology, it's easy to send off a text or an email at whatever time you want. It's easy to fit friendships into your own schedule. But if you are actively out, trying to make deep connections with people... your schedule is going to get messed up, because real, human relationships don't fit into little boxes.
3. Help people. Do service projects. Open doors for people in the mall. Pick up trash on the side of the road. Help at a food bank. God calls us to help the widows and the orphans. Do you have any widows in your church? Go and visit them. Talk to them, or see if they need any yard work done.
In Sunday school, we are continually going back to that kid's song "read your Bible, pray every day, and you'll grow, grow, grow." We've since added two more things to that list.
Read your Bible everyday.
Make persistent prayer a priority.
Fellowship with other believes. Have deep, personal relationships, and hold each other accountable.
You can't do those last two unless you throw off hermitage and get out there in the world.