Sunday, March 02, 2008

closing doors

being a part of this intentional community has raised many questions for us about how it is we express our fidelity to God, each other, and this place called lexington, kentucky.  we can take our love for God on the road and we can even honor our commitment to people we live far away from (in a sort or email-y, phone call-y, diminished way).  however, it seems to me one of the most difficult things to do is vow fidelity to a place.  making a covenant with God expressed in an unwavering commitment to a particular place seems like a reckless act that undermines opportunity for bigger and better things and places. we all want to keep our options open.  hyper-mobility is a treasure of this age so to say that one is sticking around "till death do us part" is a very provocative and offensive act.  i hasten to point out that i think staying with intentionality is a qualitative leap from sticking around because it is easier or makes sense.  'staying', done well, is a energy-drenched-action that requires every bit as much determination and willingness to be unsettled as does 'going'.  you might even say that in this time of unparalleled mobility, staying (with intentionality) is the new going.  will has suggested that one of the most daring things we can do as missionaries is to tell our neighbors that we are going to be living next to them "till death do us part".  a powerful challenge.

So, i was interested to read this article in the New York Times that suggests closing doors of opportunity might actually be the most sane thing to do.  here's a clip from the piece and you can read the whole article here.  closing doors and welcoming continuity in our living situations might be an important missional ethic for the church that is emerging - but it might be one of the most difficult.

So what can be done? One answer, Dr. Ariely said, is to develop more social checks on overbooking. He points to marriage as an example: “In marriage, we create a situation where we promise ourselves not to keep options open. We close doors and announce to others we’ve closed doors.”

Or we can just try to do it on our own. Since conducting the door experiments, Dr. Ariely says, he has made a conscious effort to cancel projects and give away his ideas to colleagues. He urges the rest of us to resign from committees, prune holiday card lists, rethink hobbies and remember the lessons of door closers like Xiang Yu.


Anonymous said...


It’s not so much a departure as an arrival,
Or rather, a having arrived – as when, out driving,
You pass an orchard on a southward hill,
Old apple trees aslant in heaps of prunings.
For Sale. What do you know of apples? Still,
One morning you wake up under a different ceiling

And feeling that you’ve not chosen but been chosen,
Are something less than owner, more than guest.
You fertilize and mow, attend the slow
Growth of apples readying for harvest,
And settle into place like leaves or snow,
Unfold like a letter delivered as addressed.

Charles W. Pratt

Pete, Lori and Silas said...

These are good words to chew on...challenging ones. We have moved 3 times in the last year, and it has been a strain. It has prevented us from letting our roots dig down deep. Perhaps moving protects us from having to face the messiness of relationships...deep relationships with the people around us. But I do feel that I would be hesitant to make a theology around this. The Bible has so many examples of people on the go. So there has to be a balance. And ultimately...what is HE saying to each of us? But I definitely think we need to rethink why we move so much?! Good thoughts...just wanted to comment as we feel a part of your community and like to read the Ashram.

Alana said...

I could not agree more, with the idea of staying put. It does take guts to be intentionally in one place, one house, etc. for the long haul. Especially in a society that tends to be upwardly mobile. So much so that staying put becomes "downwardly mobile" by default. I am often encouraged in my stay-put-ishness by the following quote: "A brother came to Scetis to visit Abba Moses and asked him for a word. The old man said to him: 'Go sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.'"--Moses 6, (p. 41 _In the Heart of the Desert: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers_ by John Chrissavgis.)

Very very old concept that has for a long time been applied outside of the monastic setting, for those of us in normal parish life as well.