Abbot Philip: Spirituality and the Unexpected

Abbot Philip
“…Spirituality is always about living with the unexpected. This week has had more than enough of that. My personal challenge is always to keep whatever happens focused in Jesus Christ. Sometimes I find myself responding to situations—and usually doing a fairly good job responding—but without keeping an awareness of the presence of God. At one level, that is no great thing. At another level, the reality is so much easier to deal with when I am aware of the presence of Jesus Christ.

When I was a young monk and too many things happened at once, I would and did become fairly ill because of the stress. Later I realized that I get stress because at some level in myself I believe that I must carry everything by myself. And it is just not true. There are other humans who can help me and I had to learn to trust them. More importantly, I had to leave things in the hands of God and trust God. That was a wonderful growing for me and most of the time, I can be in that place of trust—even if things are not going the way that I want them to go!

For me, it is a question of taking the time to remember the Lord and then living in that awareness. It changes everything for me. I suppose that our spiritual tradition would call it “mindfulness.” I work at becoming committed to “mindfulness” and keep working at it over the years. It is easier now that I am older. The immediacy of situations does not seem to push me as much as it did when I was younger. Deep within me, it seems like there is an awareness that the world does not depend on me and that there is always time to be still and reflect before going into action. Of course, there are situations where a person must respond immediately, but those are truly rare situations. Most situations do not need to have a super immediate resolution.

Remember! That is what I keep telling myself. Remember that God is Lord! Remember, you are not alone! Remember, the world does not depend on you. It depends on God. When I find myself getting stressed out, then—most of the time—I remember and can begin to live on that other plane where I wish I could remain all the time. But my life is a combination of remembering and forgetting, remembering and then getting distracted, remembering and then not paying attention. On the other hand, I can see that it really has become a different spiritual struggle as I get older. My confidence and trust in God have grown very much, even if I am not faithful all the time. …”– Abbot Philip, Christ in the Desert monastery, Abbot’s Notebook

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