Our church’s summer book club is reading through author Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option. It isn’t often that I resonate with a book to the point where I reread it. For whatever reason, this one struck a chord. I’ve read the book three times and then some.
I couldn’t tell you what it was about. I’ve never been good at narrating back out loud what I’ve read. But what I think it was, is that the book put words to what, for me anyway, my life as a stay-at-home mom is all about. He put words to my visions.
The author speaks of shoring up our families and communities for the coming dark ages. Western culture is crumbling, and Christianity has become diluted and unpracticed. What we see now is not what we will see in ten, twenty, thirty years.
In his introduction, Dreher writes, “We are going to have to learn habits of the heart forgotten by believers in the West.” I cannot get the phrase “habits of the heart” out of my head. He joined the word ‘habits’, a concept and practice I have undervalued and blown off in my life for way too long, and combined it with the soul-stirring “heart”.
“If a defining characteristic of the modern world is disorder, then the most fundamental act of resistance is to establish order. If we don’t have internal order, we will be controlled by our human passions and by the powerful outside forces who are in greater control of directing liquid modernity’s deep currents…
“‘The structure of life in the monastery, the things you do every day, is not just pointless repetition,” said Brotherour Augustine Wilmeth, twenty-five, whose red Viking-like beard touches his chest. “It’s to train your heart and your spirit so that when you need it, when you don’t feel strong enough to will yourself to get through a difficult moment, you fall back on your training’…In other words, ordering one’s actions is really about training one’s heart to love and to desire the right things, the things that are real, without having to think about it. It is acquiring virtue as a habit.”
The Psalmist writes, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee”. This isn’t anywhere near about “do more” or “try harder”, which I’m becoming more and more convinced is perhaps an unconscious but stubborn resistance on the part of the soul to hear, love, and believe the Truth. There is no trying. Only believing.
We cannot will ourselves into holiness. We cannot deny ourselves into faithfulness. We order ourselves in obedience. A Higher Power fashions my life, and the power isn’t me. God is disciplining us, as sons in whom He delights. We submit and devote to His training and guidance, this transformation that changes us to love what He loves.