This gate is the entry to the monks’ side of Gethsemani, the trappists’ monastery in Kentucky where I spent Mother’s Day weekend this year. I was on the waiting list and this weekend was the first opening and perfect timing for my retreat there. I didn’t think too much about these gates that were visible out my room’s window. Instead I often looked at the small pond that was at the top of the steps in the photograph, a beautiful garden where I never saw a monk. Actually, I entered the retreat house door that was directly across from this gate, a gate that was not open to me as a guest.
What strikes me now are the words “God Alone” that I came across in my morning pages from early in June. I’d already spent the weekend at the retreat house with the monks of the Abbey and was reading The Practice of the Presence of God, a compilation of writings of Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk in the 17th century.
On the day I wrote the pages I was avoiding something that was uncomfortable, that challenged my ego– or how I “looked” to others, feeling out of place, inadequate or self concious. Thinking about my resistance I wrote, “when I feel self-conscious or scared I’m thinking too much about myself;” quite a revelation for me.
Part of Brother Lawrence’s wisdom is that when he had an “outside” (he lived in a monastery) duty or upcoming event he didn’t think too much about it beforehand. He developed a satisfaction with what he did in God’s presence.
His example teaches people like me not to perseverate, as I sometimes (I changed from ‘often’ because I am learning) do, about what I will do and how it will go or even if I should go.
Brother Lawrence’s work as a monk was for God alone. To do something for “God Alone” I think means to take the human out of it, which I didn’t get at first and is becoming clearer. To take the human out of my action means to take myself out of it…whatever the “it” I am doing. To be unselfconscious– to not consider how I will look or what will happen to me or how/what it will do for me but to pay more attention to the people and the task before me.
To let God alone be in charge of the outcomes.