by Sister Teresa Jackson
There is a popular saying “eighty percent of success is showing up.” Regardless of whether that is true for life in general it is certainly true of Benedictine life. Life in a monastery consists of a lot of “showing up.” You show up for prayer every day. You show up for meals. You show up for meetings (lots of meetings, but that’s a whole other article). You show up when you feel like showing up and show up when you don’t feel like it. You show up to interact with the people you like and the ones you don’t like. You show up when times are easy and when times are hard. In Benedict’s Rule or guidebook that we live by he said that we keep showing up until we die, describing the monastic as: “faithfully observing [God’s] teaching in the monastery until death…”
So what does it mean to keep showing up day after day? Benedict creates a lifestyle that gives monastics an opportunity to be changed, transformed in a fundamental way. Benedictine life is a life that is meant to change us, to slowly strip away all that keeps us from knowing God on a deep level. But of course this way of life, this way of showing up every day is simply an invitation. We all know how this works. You can show up every day for work and spend every minute thinking about how much you hate your job. Or you can show up every day in gratitude for the chance to be able to work, to provide a service, to make a difference.
The heart of Benedictine life is showing up day after day and giving thanks for the opportunity to do so. Showing up is an invitation to look at our hearts, at our attitudes, and where they need to change. When the showing up is difficult, when we’d really rather be somewhere else, doing something else, with someone else, it is an invitation to let our hearts be cracked open in order to give them to God. The Greek word used in the New Testament is metanoia, to turn around, to be converted. It is only by showing up that we have a chance to experience this metanoia, this turning around and being transformed into God’s image.
In his Rule Benedict imagined this daily showing up to be like climbing a ladder of humility. We ascend the ladder as we gradually realize that we are not the center of the universe and slowly allow more room in our hearts for God, for others. And this progress up the ladder is the result of daily showing up, day in and day out, using each day as a chance for metanoia. But Benedict assures us that our daily showing up will bear fruit. “Now, therefore, after ascending all these steps of humility, the monk will quickly arrive at that perfect love of God which casts out fear. What a beautiful reward for showing up!