GUARDING THE HEART
Lifeless Things Offer no Satisfaction
The lifeless things of this world offer no spiritual satisfaction, yet we often sell ourselves off to things or people by giving them power over our hearts. It is easy to feel abandoned or hurt by those to whom we’ve given power. If we need affirmation from others we take the chance that we empower demons who would use our personal needs to keep us from focusing on that which is eternal.
Our need for affirmation from others can distract us from focusing on God. Ownership of our heart should be reserved for God alone, for evil spirits use whatever means they can to make us feel abandoned, discounted or unloved by anyone we’ve allowed to own our heart. We can easily be distracted from our service to God if we allow ourselves to become envious of the recognition others receive. Recognition for a job well done can be nice, but not if it comes at the price of having lost our soul.
God’s love must be sufficient, for only our relationship with God has lasting and eternal value. Sometimes we have to pull ourselves back from others and enter into The Silence. This self imposed exile is the spiritual retreat that helps us focus on what we have in God. Then our relationships with others become healthy, fulfilling, and life giving.
With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon – All Merciful Savior Orthodox Christian Monastery – Vashon Island, WA
Abbot Tryphon is such a wise man and I quite often quote him; I know I read what he has to say, or what other saints he quotes, daily. It has enhanced my life immeasurably and I thank him for his prayerful insight. He wrote this on January 14th, 2013 and I cannot help but note its impact on my current life situation, and the impact it should always have. When we mull over choices and options before us, the material should always take last place in our consideration and in our deliberations. As I reiterated my experiences and personal “a-ha” moments on my journey to Alaska last week, I profoundly realized that things, and the accumulation of them, are false gods. I watched an interesting You Tube video this morning of a man in Canada addressing their governmental body and his referencing America and Americans, along with Europe and the European Union. He was discussing our incessant need to accumulate things, even when we cannot afford them. He mentioned that the interest alone that the Chinese collect from us each year pays for 100% of their military budget; he went on to add another 8-10 countries and noted that not only do we pay enough in interest to fund China’s military, but all the others he listed, combined! All the sub-prime loans through Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac that are now bust…it shows that people were loaned money on homes they could not afford – ever. And the government knew that and did it because it was another way to control our flailing economy! And, it shamed me, in a way. What a poor example we are, as a consumer-driven culture, to the world, but most importantly, to our children. Why does a 10-year-old need an iPad? Who says 12-year-olds need iPhones and Macbooks?? Why does a pre-teen have a Twitter account? (I still don’t fully understand what Twitter is or how it all functions, although I do understand it has to do with accumulating “followers” or “fans.” For a 12-year-old? Really??!!). I was at a well-loved bookstore (Barnes and Noble) for lunch recently (yes, they have a cafe there) and my daughter-in-law pointed out to us a young mother (in her late 20s or early 30s) sitting with her young son (3 or 4 at the oldest) at a table. She had a latte, he had a drink box; she was reading a stack of magazines; he was playing on her iPhone. (And he was good at it, too). But here we were, in a bookstore, and this little boy was playing on an iPhone; books all around him and he is on electronic media. (Expensive electronic media, I might add!!). How very sad.
We have been unfortunate in our married life, and we have been very fortunate. We have lived in large homes within well-planned and nice neighborhoods, and we have lived in relatively poor farmhouses that have motorcycle-stained carpets. We have had housekeepers to clean for us and we have had to buckle down (like now) and do for ourselves. We have lived from one extreme to the other in the 28 years we have been together. We have accumulated a lot of “things.” This summer, we purged much of that (600 books to our local library, alone!). And now we are considering a deeper, and more thorough purge. We long for “simple and humble,” and before us lay some interesting decisions. In our past, we did allow people power over us, both personally and in our working lives, as well as our spiritual lives. We have been deceived and let down in horribly professional, spiritual, and personal ways. We have, however, learned from those experiences. Ownership of our Hearts does belong solely to God. We need to keep our eyes focused on eternal truths, rather than how many parking spaces our garage has. We were looking at houses and neighborhoods in Alaska (I am a woman! C’mon! I love to drive by houses, just enjoying the drive) and each home I commented on, and liked, seemed to have a 3-car garage. My daughter-in-law quickly pointed out to me, “Mom, you are a grandma now, you can really, really downsize! Why do you need 3 garage doors?” And she is right; I don’t need that. It is simply a way for things to have power over me. I need small and I need simple; guardianship of the Heart.
As we face decisions before us, and choices we need to make, I will be retreating into “The Silence,” which is a Byzantine/Orthodox way of intimating the type of quiet Monks and Cloistered Religious keep. Not just intimating, but also imitating! A personal, spiritual retreat right where you are. I plan to enter into more contemplative times throughout my day in order, to order, my thinking in a right way – Guardianship of the Heart!! We are striving to put off the shackles of our “stuff,” all the noise of life around us, and look to a life-change that is significant:
Where do I want my front porch to be facing when I sit in my rocking chair, with my husband at my side? What do I want to be looking at and have close to me? Who do I want near me; close to me? What do I need to be doing to make these things I am thinking about real? How do I make the things I want to be living and the way I want to be living, and the “where” of my life, become a reality? I will enter into “the Silence” of my heart and pray Our Lord reveals His will for my life, and the life of our family. As my eldest son likes to say, “I firmly believe that God uses 2 x 4’s when we need them, and that He has no problem using them!” I pray that God uses His 2 x 4 on me and my husband soon. His will is what I seek; living a simple life of grace through work and through loving our family and friends, which is a way of living a life of continual prayer.
I quoted St. Maximos the Confessor during this past holiday season, but I believe we need to listen to this all the time, not just in moments of proposed excess. I am prayerful that the “guardianship of my heart” will lead me into more and more of the mindset that “lifeless things offer no satisfaction.”