Thursday, 27 February 2014
Lima Beans and Bucket Lists
I don't like lima beans. I can't stand either the taste or the texture, and the colour leaves much to be desired. At the convent, when we had lima beans, I swallowed them whole because good nuns ate what was provided whether we liked it or not. It might not be a bad theory or theology; it might even be good. And of course, there are millions of people in the world who have nothing to eat, so liking lima beans (or not, as the case may be) shouldn't be a big deal. Still ...
Lima beans raise important questions. To eat or not to eat. I've just finished reading a book by Abbie Reese called Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns. Abbie Reese was allowed into the enclosure of Corpus Christi Monastery in Rockford Illinois, a community of Poor Clare Colettines. Every Sister's name was changed in the book (both her name before convent days and her religious name). They are hidden from us and in some ways from each other, as the silence prevents them from knowing much about what each one was before entering the community, or what they think. The inside flap of the cover says: "This artistic and ethnographic work highlights the countercultural values and dedication of individuals who, at incredible cost, live for love of God and humanity, out of faith in what cannot be seen, and with the belief that they will be rewarded in the afterlife..."
The book is fascinating, scary, challenging ... I hear echoes of the type of person I was long ago - the searching person - and of a theology that (some of it anyhow) no longer makes sense to me. Which is not, of course, to dismiss it or the value of the life of these nuns. It's a comfort to know people pray in that way. And yet ...
One of the Sisters shared a story that reminded me of lima beans. She is lactose intolerant. Supper at the monastery is bread, cheese and an apple. Period. Consistently. Cheese made her really ill, but she knew the diet wouldn't be different/changed for her. Is that poverty? Maybe for those Sisters.
Anyhow, now I don't have to eat lima beans or swallow them whole. I do need to ask myself a few questions ... about poverty ... about obedience ... and/or I can just laugh about the lima beans. That Sister couldn't laugh about the cheese, though.
And then - there's a question about giving our lives to God - how God calls - I used to believe God called from without. "Tell me what you want of/from me!" "Just tell me and I'll do it! I'll get it right eventually. What do you want of me? Do you care whether I eat lima beans or not?" I wonder if Jesus liked lima beans?
What if heaven isn't as we have imagined it? What if we give our life while expecting reward in heaven - and heaven isn't there ...? I don't know what comes next. I live in the mystery, gradually living with not knowing. Life is about love, and those Sisters are certainly caught up in love. Take 20 women and put them in a monastery where silence reigns except for the daily one hour of recreation together - all different personalities... love is hard. What if the reward isn't from having lived as perfect a life as we can here? What is the reward? ?And I'm kind of weary of trying to be perfect, to get it just right so others will love me, accept me, recognize me ... sounds like 'me' becomes pretty important... ? ;-)
And then there's a bucket list. What is the bucket list if every ounce of energy goes towards perfection? Can we have bucket lists? How do the items listed square with poverty of spirit - and with the extreme poverty we see in the world around us .... ??
Well, I have a bucket list anyhow. I've crossed off finding Grandpa Macgregor (though I'd still like to know more about this mysterious man). I've discovered an amazing network of relatives and friends. AND - last week, I did something I hadn't even known was ON my bucket list.
I was driving through Hudson off the west end of Montreal Island. In the warmer weather there is a ferry from Hudson to Oka but imagine my surprise when I saw that there is a snow bridge across Lake of Two Mountains! :-) So ... I drove across the lake. $7.00. Return would be $14.00, but the kind man said if I was coming right back, he'd only charge me one way. Driving on ice 28" thick, he said. Conifer trees anchored in the ice on either side of the track across, whistling wind blowing snow .... It was wonder-full. Fun! Magical!
So, the things on our bucket lists don't have to be big things. What's on yours? It'd be neat to share ...
And then there are things I'd love to do if I had more lives to live - and am not putting on my bucket list. I'd love to see Nepal, Switzerland, return to New Zealand, take the trans-Siberian railroad... We make choices. I'd rather return to Bermuda and the UK to see my family and friends.
Those nuns in the cloistered communities don't go anywhere outside the monastery except for doctors' appointments. They don't go to their parents' funerals or to weddings or baptisms or family reunions. Their focus is on a life of prayer in this life, and the hope of reward in a life to come. They are joyful. Committed to God.
For the Poor Clare Colettine Nuns of Corpus Christi Monastery in Rockford, IL, this year has been one of experiencing the words of St. Clare: “Great is the grace of our vocation.” The community witnessed the arrival of a postulant, the celebration of a Silver (25 years) and a Golden (50 years) Jubilarian, and the death of another sister. (from a website: Cloistered Life.com)
Clothing of a novice
That kind of dedication should raise questions about life and death, if not about lima beans. I think I'm finding a balance that is right for me - we can do things we love in this world. We don't know what comes next, but we still (those of us who believe in God by whatever name we use) know with whom we journey.
Meantime, I guess I won't spend a lot of time worrying whether God cares that I don't like lima beans, or whether I avoid them or swallow them whole.
And I'm pretty sure Jesus wasn't fond of lima beans, eggplant, or liver. How's that for making God in our own image?
Hot cross buns with real icing from Patisserie Belair is a whole other story. :-)