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“Wherever You Go, There You Are”

August 16, 2012

This blog post’s title is not an original one.  It’s used in AA circles when discussing the so-called “geographical cure” whereby alcoholics are tempted to think that a change of venue may be the cure to what ails them.  However, it’s not just for alcoholics or those suffering from addiction.  It’s an apt expression for each of us burdened by the human condition. In Greek monastic settings, the watchword is “ouk en topo, all’ en tropo,”a saying taken from Evagrius on achieving virtue and basically meaning it’s not the place, but the way of living in the place that is key to leading a virtuous life (To Monk Eulogion, 1.2 PG 79.1093).

Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich once told the story of a priest who repeatedly asked for a transfer to a new parish.  Wisely, the Bishop answered the priest by telling him, “Father, I would be glad to grant your wish for a transfer if only you were not going to take your self there.”

I suspect that many of us are tempted in the same way— “If only I were married to a better woman”, “If only I could land that promotion”, or “If I could only be free of these concerns and anxieties”.  Yet more often than not, the “problem” is not solved by a geographical cure, another relationship, a promotion at work, or a carefree life. These aren’t the solutions because they aren’t the problems. They are circumstances of life in which Providence has placed us for our benefit.  The realization and acceptance of this fundamental spiritual principle is the key to growth in the spiritual life.  In the chapter entitled, “The Garden of the Heart” I note, “Trust in God’s providence and love is not nebulous optimism, but rock-hard faith in the personal significance of Christ’s salvific work as a means for overcoming life’s trials and tribulations as well as sickness and death.”  I recall a story of a young father who had just lost his wife to cancer.  Two of the four children were still in their teens and the thought of raising them without the support, caring, and love of their mother terrified him.  In spite of many counsels to make a drastic life change, this man of faith stayed the course.  He chose to ride out the storm of life and trust in God’s providential care and love.  It was the right choice.

In a world that glorifies constant movement, activity and change what is truly necessary is the cultivation of stillness and peace that can only be acquired through prayer rooted in the humble belief that God has the power and the desire to transform human life. This is not to say there are not moments that call for movement and change, but they can only be discerned in stillness and humble reflection on the movement and changes in our own hearts.

From → Addiction, Healing

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