Feeling the Monastic Call: Deploying Ancient Practices of Christ-Following


Image by Chris Dessaigne

Sometimes the right thing to do is retreat. Battle torn, bloody, and beaten, those defending a city surrounded by her enemies and suffering defeat and defeat are demoralized and ill. And with a great blast of a horn from one of the battlements behind, the retreat is sounded. This is no permanent defeat but a temporary stay of fighting for the health and benefit of those feeling the constant barrage of the enemy.

As this is true in a military sense, so to is it of our spiritual lives.

Dealing with the world, the flesh, and all its’ tempting wiles is difficult. And a Christ-follower is never perfectly successful. I know this first hand.

It is difficult business being surrounded by a world in which every physical inch of our being cries out to embrace the pleasurable entices of the flesh. To consume that extra burger because it tastes so good. To lap up that every angle of the scantily clad vixen walking down the street. To get baked, toasted, and silly drunk until all walls are broken down and one can just let loose the stress of life. There are countless enticements calling us to our doom like the sirens of ancient myth whom, though being death itself cloaked in irresistible beauty, dragged men to their watery graves.

How can one not feel defeated?

And when defeat comes, as it does to all, how one copes with failure is the inevitable question. Of course there are bruises and injured emotions in need of restoration. And new and stronger habits of resolve need to be established. But let’s be real. Most, if not all people, fight and wrestle with the same sins their whole lives with little to no glimmer of hope in their eyes for victory.

For me and countless other Christians the world over throughout history have heard a call to a monastic life. A way of living free from most worldly passions except for those which are brought in by the corrupt human heart.

Monks and men of the desert retreated from the world just as Christ had for forty days. They face their demons and the devil himself through fasting, praying, silence, removal of wealth and comfort, labor, study, and sleep deprivation.

All of these things were meant to crush and control the flesh and the human’s heart toward embracing destructive desires.

Unfortunately, following the Protestant Reformation all things “Catholic” were scrutinized with a suspicious eye. And in modern practice, the monastic life to most Evangelical Christians is seen as unbiblical, unwise, and downright weird.

And while certainly many good reasons can be presented on why everyone should not employ many of these practices, there are countless others who hear a call to go out into  the isolating wilderness and deal with their sin.

I hear that calling.

As a younger man, I struggled deeply with pornography.

Each time I watched the illicit images dance across the computer screen, I felt a part of my soul die. Such deep depressions would cease me the darkness of which I cannot truly express in words. I found comfort in one thing. A song.

It was melodic. It was sorrowful. It whisked me away to the shores of peace and forgiveness and I felt the loving forgiveness of my father. It was like being held in a warm blanket and being told that everything would be okay.

In other places I felt refuge. My parents had a pop-up camper that sat in the driveway. The half-door and the collapsed ceiling provided just enough room for me to squeeze myself in. My head faced upward to the pop-out ceiling window through which I would murkily gaze out at the rain as it pounded against the camper. Pure silence. All but the rain as I meditated, studied, and removed myself from life.

And out from this solitude, I would emerge a stronger and more determined young man who resolved to follow Christ in new and devoted ways.

In fact, I am constantly on the prowl for places and ways in which I can escape and reflect, fast and sit silent, and—when appropriate—punish and deprive my flesh.

These are not antiquated and irrelevant Christian practices. They are not barbaric and superstitious. The monastic call comes from the Holy Spirit urging us to retreat for a time in which our bruises can be healed and new lessons can be learned.

Have you ever heard a monastic call?

THEOLOGY21 is a co-op of authors dedicated to renovating theology for a new generation, taking the ancient truths of scripture and theology and speaking to the post-Christian culture of the 21st century. To keep up-to-date on all things THEOLOGY21, Give our Facebook page a “like”, follow our twitter page, add yourself to our email list, or subscribe to our feed!

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