The most popular news story on bbc.co.uk at the moment is this one – a pretty comic tale of a three-woman strong convent that has now been reduced to one remaining member after the other two attacked her. I suppose the reason that it’s heavily clicked on is because it’s funny, unusual, and pretty ironic.
The article dubs the nuns as from ‘the most austere order of the Roman Catholic Church, devoted to a life of prayer, penance and quiet contemplation.’ The theory of a special sacred life may look nice and spiritual but the practice, three nuns not being able to get on without physically attacking one another, kind of shows up what life, and even the Christian life, really looks like. You can live in a convent for 44 years but you can’t escape the flesh, the world, and the devil.
I reckon the temptation’s there for all of us – especially with blogs – I want to point out the sacredness of my routine, the holiness of my actions, but in reality I’m only kidding myself. I might not use the garble of ‘devoted to a life of prayer, penance, and quiet contemplation’, but I’m equally as likely to spin on about how often I’m captivated by God, ham up the prayerletter to make my exploits look extra devout. Maybe the balance is hard to strike – we are pressing on towards the goal, trying to let go of every hinderance, and we are living in hope that day by day we are being changed by God, and made more like his Son. But with that comes the brutal truth that we are sinners crying out for rescue.
Back to the nuns’ story… now the local Archbishop has got involved and written to the Pope to get his permission to call the bailiffs in to force the last nun to take down the barricades. The remaining nun’s response? “She has written to the Pope telling him she will only leave when God decides it is time to go.” Can’t leave this story without questioning the seeming madness of that comment (if the press quotation is accurate).
She’s nailed the issue in one sense; God is sovereign and when He decides it’s time to go, then it definitely will be (and that could be in the shape of the local authorities banging on the door and forcing her out!). But the manner in which she seems to be using that phrase gives me the creeps. Maybe I’m taking her out of context, but I reckon it’s symptomatic of what Christianity looks like all too often in our culture – all too easily reckoning God’s will is this or that without giving much time to what God has declared his will to be in his written word. We have to rescue the foundational truth that God has ordained what pleases him and what doesn’t. Without even getting into whether or not being a nun is a good thing to do, the point in question seems to be whether I can defend my actions on the basis of what God has said to me personally, with little thought to what’s he’s spoken in Scripture.