Some of you know that, for my graduation, I was given a retreat to a monastery by some friends and family. I went up to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve been there once before, but only stayed one night; this trip would be two days and two nights of silence and solitude (for me, this is a good thing).
When I checked into my modest room, I quickly went to the window and looked out. This was the scene that greeted me: the graves of the monks who have died in the monastery since its founding in the 1940s.
A room with a view, indeed.
I don’t know how this strikes you. Morbid? Disturbing?
For me, it was amazingly clarifying.
In Adam’s Return, Richard Rohr suggests that one of the key facts that a man must come to terms with is the fact that he (I) will die.
Two days of looking out a window at gravestones helps with this perspective.
Rohr does not suggest this to threaten us with judgment, or to insinuate that we all “get busy.” Rather, it’s meant to plant the seed that everything has the same end, and that part of my journey as a man (or human?) is to learn to release: my stuff, my agenda, my dreams, my family, my control, my ego.
I do believe in the resurrection, but I also know that the mortality rate is still right about 100%, and that, as best I can tell, you still can’t take it with you. It seems to me that we try as hard as we can to convince ourselves otherwise, but I wonder what it costs us. We think that we can maintain control and accumulate more and more and more and that we will never need to release.
And yet those gravestones point to a different reality.
In fact, so much of our spirituality has evolved to keep death as separate from us as possible. Last Christmas I was visiting my parent’s (psuedo) country church up in Virginia, and I was struck by the fact that there was a graveyard beside it.
Graveyards are no longer in the design plans of our safe suburban churches.
But what have we lost?
Have churches bought into the cultural message that promises eternal life, if not youth, and encourage us to attach, attach, attach to everything around us?
I am coming to believe that at some point much of life needs to be about surrender. Knowing that someday I will need to make the ultimate surrender helps just a little bit with that.
I’ll take the room with graveyard view, please.