I had some disappointing news this week. I can’t name names as I’m not sure whether or not it’s fully official yet – nothing has been posted on the website, but members have been emailed – an online dispersed monastic community with which I have been associated, has closed its virtual doors.
The leader of the community had decided, after prayer and soul-searching, that her vision to create an online community was not truly of God.
The call that my friend believes she had heard from God was a call to adopt the monastic habit, but in an effort to heed that call she had misinterpreted it to include becoming ordained, and the setting up of an online community.
Neither of those things, she said, were truly part of her original call, she realised now.
Since the creation of an online community was not God’s idea but her own aberration, she felt that she must put an end to the whole enterprise.
There are several questions and realisations that this closure raises for me:
I realise that it is a serious business to set something up and make promises (or even the suggestion of a commitment that people interpret as promises) that you can’t keep – if you do, you run the risk of hurting and disappointing people who rely on you.
I realise that, if people do come to rely on you or your organisation, and that organisation ultimately fails, leaving those people completely in the lurch is irresponsible. One could argue that to allow people to fall into the arms of God may be part of their onward spiritual journey, but that seems rather unkind and unnecessary. I wonder if the least you can do is to provide direction pointers, waymarks, for people to move on to.
I realise that having one person in charge rather than a group who all catch the vision, runs the risk of the whole enterprise standing or falling on the basis of how weak or strong or reliable that one person’s shoulders are.
How do we know whether or not a dream or a vision is from God, or whether we – like Abraham and Sarah – are trying to make things happen by human power and will instead of allowing God to make things come to fruition in His time?
It may be that my friend is further along the journey of faith than I am, and she knows things that I have yet to discover.
But these are the things that make me think that sometimes it is just the right thing to do to plough ahead, take leaps of faith and see what happens.
Acts 5:38b,39a: “if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it” – The Pharisee Gamaliel to the Sanhedrin.
Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain that build it”
I’ve tagged this post with ‘adoption’ because adoption is one of my visions. Interestingly, in this verse the word ‘house’ can be understood to mean ‘family’.
I don’t know how far we can know whether God is telling us to do or not do something. I don’t hear an audible ‘voice’ and I’m dubious when I hear about those who claim they do.
All we can do, I think, is to get to know the difference between good and bad, conform our visions and ideas to the good, and just try. If God is in it, He will surely bless us, and if He’s not, it will come to nothing.
Abraham and Sarah’s problem surely wasn’t that they tried the vision, but that their idea conformed to cultural patterns rather than God’s good plan. They didn’t know right from wrong.
I wish my friend well in whatever she puts her hand to from now on, but I’m sad that what seemed like a very good vision has ended.