Contentment, Thanks, and Enjoyment are the focus in this chapter. Depending on whether you are a glass half full or a glass half empty type of person, these are probably areas many of us need to intentionally cultivate. 🙂
One way to help us do this is to consider what is best for us to do at this particular moment. Avoiding rushing into the day and getting distracted is often key to being contented and thankful. If we get caught up in a whirl of activities which sweep us along, we won’t get to do what we should be doing and that becomes a source of discontent.
Routine comes to the rescue by helping us to determine the next right thing, but a routine isn’t necessarily set in concrete. Different stages of family life require a change in our routines.
‘Routine gives us continuity & stability – if the routine is constantly having to be altered because of extra things to do or other people’s demands, we must think again.’
A large part of Chapter 10 is devoted to the Benedictine Way of Life.
‘The Benedictine way of life altered European cultures, including England’s. The traditional English way of life is undergirded with Benedictine’s balance and attention to everyday life…
Benedictines came here with the Normans (around A.D. 1000), and their centers of discipline and life became life-giving examples that the culture slowly followed. Balanced everyday life became more and more generally adopted in homes and villages. Like the tick-tock of a cultural clock, this life was rooted in God’s worship and His Word on the one hand and in a livable pattern of human activities on the other…
The ordinary was celebrated, enjoyed, tended.
I know it’s not fashionable to look at the past and acknowledge that despite all our scientific knowledge, material wealth and the benefit of hindsight, we don’t measure up to previous generations in some of these areas.
Labour saving devices, longer life spans, advances in medicine, don’t seem to have made us any more contented than our grandparent’s generation.
The Benedictines’ way of life provided a balance of rest, work and prayer. Their communities were productive and hospitable. Their farming skills changed agriculture; they established schools, universities, and hospitals.
I love how Esther de Waal addresses this need for us to ponder life’s purpose (this whole interview is very inspiring):
‘There’s such a danger of life passing people by unless we stop them in their tracks and say, what are you going to do with this incredible gift of God’s absurd generosity, which makes each of us so different and so interesting?’
We are not machines. We need adequate rest and sleep, nutritious meals (the ordinary things of life); time to think, time for relationships and time to cultivate contentment and thankfulness.
The art of the Dutch Reformation celebrated the ordinary – a woman pouring milk, for example – these commonplace activities were considered to be worth reproducing in art; they were inherently beautiful to the artist.
Susan Schaeffer Macaulay believes that a good education and life at home overlap – a recurrent theme throughout this book but she develops her ideas more thoroughly in her wonderful book, For the Children’s Sake, which was my introduction to the Charlotte Mason Method of education.
She offers further wisdom relating to family life in general e.g.
‘People do best when they are in small enough groups to be known. We need relationships.’
‘…everyday routines are increasingly seen to be restrictive, rather than life-allowing.’
‘Is it actually more valuable to push a pen on paper or buttons on a computer than to be an expert in human life and its care?
Are things really more important than people?’
There are many articles and books about the Benedictine Way but here are a couple I thought were practical. I’ve also added a link to a free online version of his Rule:
‘Contentment comes when we accept our own or our situation’s limitations…to be contented, we need to look at what we do have (not at what we don’t), give thanks, and cheerfully make the best of our marriage, children, house, and each day, season, and chapter in life.’
Susan Schaeffer Macaulay