We are on week two of the first ever Companions program, and everyone’s still alive. But, my goodness, it has been a significant transition from the university life to the “nun lyfe” (as my friend Bethany puts it). The first few days, I would vacillate dramatically between feeling completely normal and utterly surreal in my surroundings. Upon exiting my room at whatever ungodly hour I happened to rise (Note: godly rising time is 6am), I would sally forth down the hall, thinking to myself, “my, what perfectly ordinary hallways. I feel so ordinary in their parallel embrace.”
Okay, so, I never once thought that. However, I did realize how bereft I was of that thought when the sudden realization, “I’m not in a university dormitory anymore,” swooped in like some pesky fowl. The thought made my insides feel differently than they had moments prior when I’d mistakenly believed I was someplace else. I cast furtive glances all around me, expecting the halls too to give some indication of the change. I regard this disturbance as a blessing though. I may have committed more than five infractions right at the outset had I continued in the nonchalance typical of on-campus living.
To give you some background, for the past few years I have been sort of haphazardly pursuing my interests at the Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg. This past spring, I began to sense that my time at CMU would not continue in the fall, and so I prayed for direction. The next Sunday, I encountered the ad for the Companions program at the Anglican church I was attending. I became snagged on the idea; I couldn’t tug free.
This came at a time when I’d begun to feel a bourgeoning agitation toward the “formative” practices of the university. I was disgruntled, tired of merely reading about a life devoted to God in word and deed while living devoted to my own ambition, success, time and future plans. And for all its emphasis on Christian community, it looked to me more like crowded rooms for the gregarious and charismatic to be worshiped. I was very bitter then, aching for a faith that took up more space.
Some of my criticisms remain, but I now recognize that I cannot depend on my external environment, Christian or not, to facilitate my faith for me. I need to have my own discipline by which to weather the storms and transitions of day-to-day existence. This is why I have come to SSJD.
Despite this purpose, I admit to being a little distressed to find myself stepping through what initially felt like a labyrinthine structure of rules and allotted time frames for various activities. At one point last week I looked to my schedule and became inundated with anxiety. My eyes skittered around the room like a caged animal and I wondered with exaggerated horror what I had gotten myself into. This is because I generally insist upon a great deal of free time in my day. However, God reminded me that decadent amounts of leisure time haven’t actually benefitted my relationship with Him this past year or more because of a lack of the very self-discipline I came to the convent to develop. Recalling this, I can breathe properly again, and am hopeful about the changes this year will bring about in myself and the other women on this journey with me.