When my mom and a friend visited some years ago, I played tour guide around Italy. Rome, Venice, and the usual tourist areas. And they loved it all. But we have friends all over, so we also traipsed the smaller towns and villages. And staying in people’s homes, they saw The Real Italy!
But our visit to the Este castle in Ferrara led to a nearby church, where a creepy feeling pervaded. Evoked perhaps from walking over people long dead and buried beneath the floor, members of the princely Este family. I’m not sure I’d like worshiping over dead people.
But the guidebook also showed an attached working convent, open to visitation, which piqued my interest. Ancient churches and buildings, filled with equally ancient paintings wearied me. It baffles me why people travel halfway around the world just to view a nearly endless line of paintings. But to each his own! 🙂
Visit to a nunnery
Mom and Patsy were ready for a change too. So we marched next door, thinking to just walk straight in. Like at a tourist site. That’s the way the book described it, anyway.
“Ring for admittance,” the sign said, so I rang. And the door creaked slowly open as if on magic hinges. Revealing a tiny foyer, dismally devoid of life. And one inhospitable looking door set in the back wall, barring the way.
“Let’s hope the interior is more welcoming than this!” I thought. Maybe we’ll even find some life there!
Void of life
“So much for finding life here!” I thought, peering through the scant light filtering down from the high deeply set windows. The place was about as welcoming as the castle dungeon! “Let’s get out of here,” Patsy whispered, even though it seemed there was no one there to overhear.
And then we heard, “What do you want?”
“Ah, we were hoping, or that is, er, we wanted to visit the nunnery,” I stuttered nervously, as the only Italian speaker of our trio. While gaping about to see from whence that muted monotonic voice issued.
The strange window
It was only then that we spied the strange opening, revolving, but never opening.
Only later did I learn that all cloisters have these turns or wheels (small revolving compartments) used for delivering food and necessities. Similar to the revolving turnstile security doors at airports, but window-sized, and made of solid wood panels.
Blocking vision from both inside and out, they allow but brief, muffled communication with the outside world. (Take a look at one in this interesting article on the Santa Catalina Monastery; scroll down to the middle of the page.)
These turns permit the nuns or monks to receive daily necessities, without allowing direct human contact. And thus, shield them from unnecessary interruptions.
Upon learning it was a cloistered convent, we fled the tomb-like, eerie atmosphere, glad to return to fresh air and sunshine, surrounded by people.
And although part of me admires the spirit of devotion and consecration which must lead to such vows, I can’t help but compare such a life to Christ’s command to make disciples. How does one fulfill this command, secluded from contact with others?
Yet they had one thing which often seems sadly lacking in our everyday lives. Silence and stillness. And although that eerie silence didn’t make me feel restful, it did make me feel the need for it.
Keeping interruptions out
Cloistered living seems to me, man’s way of trying to do what only the Holy Spirit can do. Man trying to enter God’s presence on his own, attempting to create God’s holy peace and rest.
Barred windows and closed turnstiles can’t do it. And we don’t need need to enter a monastery to do it. Yet we do need boundaries in our lives if we really want to enter God’s presence, rest, and peace.
Limits, time schedules, and definite restrictions that can aid us in keeping unnecessary interruptions out. Boundaries that say, “thus far, and no more.” Limits on TV, internet, entertainment, hobbies, and wasting time. Because a life filled with too many distractions hinders us from being still in his presence.
The gate we need is self-discipline, which never comes easily. But by working at keeping unnecessary interruptions at bay, we create space and time for the holy hush of God’s presence.
And it’s in that atmosphere that we can hear what he has to say. What are you hearing?
Images: Fence by Witizia | Stop sign by knerri61 | Woman reading StockSnap.
6 thoughts on “Keeping Interruptions Out”
I have been struggling lately with being still. My father needs so much help so I work at my home and yard and his also. I find when I do stop doing things, I drift off to sleep and my prayers drift off as well. I hope the Holy Spirit completes them for me. Thank you for this post. ❤️
Well Amy, that’s certainly understandable. Sounds like you’ve got a pretty full plate. But I love your concluding thought. I never thought about something like that before. But now that I do, I’m pretty sure that the Holy Spirit not only finishes prayer we never get to complete. But that he also continues them – making intercession for us. How encouraging! How amazing! Thank you for such an encouraging word, and may God bless you in your service to your dad. What a blessing to serve him!
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Sheila, Thank you for this. Jesus did take time to be alone with the Father, but then He made disciples. Life at the nunnery must be as dark as you experienced. Thank you for sharing this. By the way, I’m one who travels to see painting after painting :). Love visiting every European church, too. 🙂 Have a blessed day. Karen
Yes Karen, we do need to guard our quiet time with the Lord, but without becoming recluses. I’m glad you enjoy the painting – they are beautiful. And don’t get me wrong – I like museums and the old churches too. Guess I’ve just had my fill of them, lol! Anymore, we like just visiting the simple, old villages and things off the beaten tourist track. Our visit to the nunnery was a strange one for sure, and I’m sure not the hightlight of my mom’s stay, lol!
You surely hit this one on the head, even if it was as a result of a rather unpleasant excursion. Rest and quiet before God has to be one of the hardest things in the world for me. Life is so loud and busy, and interruptions are insistent and demanding. Thank you for this picture of choosing quiet–a discipline, not a formula. You amaze me.
Ha, it was a strange excursion for sure! And you’re right. Being still before God is not easy in our busy, hectic world. So much clamors for attention. But how much of God’s voice is it drowning out? We surely can learn at least that much from cloistered living. Slow down, stop, and listen, which can be to put into action! May we continually learn to be still before him!!