The sayings of the holy figures of early Christian monasticism were gathered in various collections across the ages. This one is from Abba John the Dwarf, who was small in physical size, but a spiritual giant.
17. One day when Abba John was going up to Scetis with some other brothers, their guide lost his way for it was night-time.
So the brothers said to Abba John, ‘What shall we do, Abba, in order not to die wandering about, for the brother has lost the way?’
The old man said to them, ‘If we speak to him, he will be filled with grief and shame. But look here, I will pretend to be ill and say I cannot walk any more; then we can stay here till the dawn.’ This he did.
The others said, ‘We will not go on either, but we will stay with you.’ They sat there until the dawn, and in this way they did not upset the brother.
While drinking coffee this morning, two scriptures speaking to Abba John’s insight on maintaining good relationships came to mind:
1. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. ~~ Romans 13:10
2. Do not plan harm against your neighbor who lives trustingly beside you. ~~ Proverbs 3:29
Positive and negative statements together help flesh out our faith walk, for we don’t live in this world alone. Our lives are interconnected: our families, neighbors, communities, states, countries, and even the natural world and its flora and fauna.
Moreover, we are all connected to God, even those of us who are nonbelievers, for God believes in us, even if we can’t believe in God. We will all believe in something, even if it’s “I believe I’ll have another cup of coffee” or “I believe I can!”
We wouldn’t have our coffee without others in the great relationship chain of grower, producer, buyer, roaster, seller, coffee shop, and barista, not to mention the tree farmer, the logger, the pulp millers, the paper millers, the cup makers, and the truckers who bring all the beans and cups to our favorite java joint.
We might only believe in another skinny caramel macchiato to get us through our day, but how many of our neighbors have helped us to get this solo cup of solace? If we need to sit, collect our thoughts, stop doing for a while so we don’t get further lost, then I know a good place in my hometown with excellent coffee. Or your own couch or chair would suffice.
Take a moment to count the connections of the food you eat, the clothes you put on today, the people you meet. We are not alone–we live in God’s world.
Edward Hopper: Automat, 1927, Des Moines Art Center.