well, i admit it. i was not at all looking forward to reading about eric weiner’s experiences with the franciscans. not. at. all. if i’m totally honest, it’s because it’s a chapter on christianity. i didn’t think i’d really learn anything new. and, i’m sorry to say, i didn’t. however, anytime i read anything, it always gives me a pause to reflect + think a bit. and, that i did get from this chapter.
the franciscans are a monastic order within christianity. the order was begun by the famous and well-known monk, francis of assisi. he’s the monk who spent his days giving away and getting rid of everything possible, hanging with the animals, and vowing to live a simply life of poverty. i’ve always loved to read things by st. francis of assisi. one of the most powerful lines he wrote, in my opinion, is “preach the gospel at all times. use words if necessary.” i love that. it harkens back to the whole buddhist “off the cushion” idea i wrote about last week. practice what you preach. but, even more than that, show what you believe. there’s no need to go shoving beliefs (or lack there of) down others’ throats. it is absolutely enough to share your faith, beliefs, philosophies with others simply by being. of course, there is a time + place for debate and conversation – and that is fun to engage in! – but, how we live our lives speaks volumes. i often think about that as it is related to my blog or my activity on instagram.
am i putting some false sense of who i am out there, or am i practicing what i write about? is my life how it appears in my instagram photos? i do not in any way want things to appear one way, but in reality are completely different. in other words, if you were to read my blog and look at my photos, would you think the same of me if you met me in person? i certainly,desperately hope so. i try to line my life up to be honest + real.
photo from here.
back to the franciscans. following in their founder’s footsteps, these men also take a vow of poverty, owning nothing and living as simply as possible. why? well, because all of the “stuff” is simply not needed (as i am proving in my own little unplanned franciscan way of living). in fact, the “stuff” is a distraction from what real life is all about, say the franciscans. and, i’d have to agree… to a point. i do love my stuff.
but, i am learning to love it in much more moderation.
for st. francis and the franciscans, to empty ourselves of possessions, pride, egoism, and self is to open ourselves up to god. emptiness leads to freedom. i am down with that. to have nothing, means that you have nothing to lose, and therefore you can focus on the things that are really important: love, justice, equality, you know… each other.
whether i am just selfish or unable to let go of my materialism, i’m not ready to by into complete poverty + emptiness like the franciscans. neither was the author of the book. i believe in moderation. maybe that’s just me wanting to have my cake + eat it too. i admit that. but, i also recognize and reject the consumer culture that we live in. there is no need to be greedy. and i will also admit that sometimes i wake up in the middle of the night, thinking of the unfairness of the life that i live, compared to the lives of others who are struggling, for example, just to have clean water.
then, my moderation comes in. i may be justifying, but i truly believe that since i am so blessed to live the life that i live, that i should do my best to enjoy it and to use it. it’s not enough to just sit back + be grateful for what i have and how i live… i must do more. i must share and give and make a difference, in the ways that i can make a difference. why? well, it’s not because i need check marks from god, or recognition, or guilt that’s for sure. i believe that i should use what i have because i am human. and each of us are equally worthy of living the best life that we can. if i can do anything to help someone out (and i am not just talking monetarily), then, simply because he or she is my brother or sister is why i should help. my heart lets me know that this is how it should be.
the other thing about franciscans + other christians is that this religion is very personal. i hate hearing that word when thinking about religion. all i hear is “have you accepted lord jesus christ as your personal savior?” coming from the mouths of conservative christians that i grew up with and worked around. ewww. it just makes me cringe. but, christianity, for all if it’s “do good unto others” is also a very personal religion, one claiming that we can commune with the divine. and in that sense, i’m also down with that. (i just realized that it may seem that i am picking and choosing my christian beliefs, but it comes from 4 years of theological study. i’m quite firm in my christian theology. yet, open to discussion, of course. wink wink.).
god (the divine, goddess, the light, the way, whatever you call it) is personal. it is a personal quest we are on, to draw closer to the divine. to attain enlightenment. to commune with nature. to let our light shine. the reason i so deeply believe in a personal connection with the divine is because of words. words that are found in many religions – and they all have to do with spirit. the word for spirit is the same as the word for breath. our spirit is our breath. our breath is an involuntary part of us that keeps us alive. our spirit, in other words, is our true life. and that, to me, has everything to do with our soul – where the holy, sacred, mysterious divine resides. within us. empowering us. guiding us. call it gut, intuition, light, breath, soul, whatever. deep inside, in our soul, is the spark of divinity that makes us equal, amazing, grounded + connected to each other.
so, while i didn’t think this chapter did much for me, it most definitely gave me a chance to reexamine my christian thoughts. i may be on the fringes of christianity, dangling on some leftist, liberal, pagan, humanist, eastern mystical wing, but i have some roots that will always be grounded in the christian faith.
if you have any thoughts about the craziness i’ve written about (today or any day), please share them with me! i’d love to learn from you!
Very interesting thoughts. I’d have to agree with your approach to it all, particularly the idea of moderation. Like you said, there is an element of self-interest in there–not wanting to renounce ALL possessions and all enjoyment. But I think you’re right that it’s also right to be grateful for what we DO have and appreciate it in all its goodness. There is most definitely a strain of that thinking in Christian (and Jewish) tradition, although there are also more ascetic traditions that are also valid. I just think that if *everyone* lived a totally possession-free life, how would we get things done? There is a place and a need for those with money/resources/possessions; they’re the ones who make the help for others possible. I think it’s about living with gratitude for what you have and being willing to share any or all of it with those around you and those who need it.
I’m also with you on the discomfort with the overly personalized religion (Christianity in particular). As a mainline/progressive Christian, I’m never quite sure how to deal with that side of things. On the one hand, it IS important to share the idea that we CAN connect with God personally. But on the other hand, that CAN’T be the end of it! One of the aspects of the Wesleyan tradition that I’ve always appreciated was his constant emphasis on BOTH personal and social holiness. In my own spiritual life, I find that my personal faith/spirituality is strongest when it’s linked with acts of justice/compassion. Without the one, the other fades away as well.
Anyway, as a fellow seminary graduate, I felt like engaging in some good theological discussion today. 🙂 Thanks for another thoughtful post!
Oh, I have way too few theological discussions these days. I miss them so much! Thank you for engaging in blog comment conversation with me! 🙂