There’s an ancient story that goes like this:
“I need oil,” thought a cenobitic monk, so he planted an olive sapling. Each day he prayed over his sapling with faithful determination. One morning he whispered this prayer, “Lord, it needs rain that its tender roots may drink and swell. Send gentle showers.” And the Lord sent gentle showers.
Then he prayed, “Lord, my tree needs sun. Send sun, I pray to thee.” And the sun shone, gliding through the dripping clouds with magnificent color. “Now frost! To brace it’s tissues,” cried the monk.
And the the little tree stood sparkling the next morning with frost, but by evening the little tree had died.
Upset and confused, the monk sought out a brother monk and told of his strange experience. “I too planted a little tree,” said his brother, “and see it thrives well. But I entrusted y tree to it’s God. He who made it knows better what it needs than a man like me so I prayed that the Lord would just send what it needs and I tended it each day.”
It’s election day and if you’re like me, your anxiety might be high this week. There is much to be worried about from the results of the election to the civil unrest that might follow, on top of our usual worries–grocery lists and virtual learning, a global pandemic and the dishes piling up. Ya know, a typical Tuesday.
I adore this story about the two monks for so many reasons. First, the brotherhood. It shouldn’t be overlooked. In distress and worry, the monk sought help and comfort from a friend. The cenobitic monks began for this very reason: we aren’t meant to go through life alone. They wanted the prayerful and contemplative lifestyle of monasticism without the isolation. We too should remember that, this week especially, that we are not alone.
Second, the action. The second monk never suggests that the monk does nothing. He never says, “Just let go and let God!” His own example shows that he planted the tree. He prayed for the tree. And he tended the tree. He put work and effort into his tree, hoping to grow life and flourish wonder so he took action.
I think the action is important to highlight before the third and most obvious reason that this story is beautiful, the trust. The second monk acted with deep and faithful trust in God. His believed wholeheartedly that God would be working for good, alongside of him.
This week, amid the anxiety, I hope we act, we vote, and we stand for things we believe in, but afterwards I hope we can find rest and peace in the loving arms of a God who we trust is working for good in the world. And then I hope we can find comfort with friends over popcorn and a horrible movies that makes us forget about everything else.
Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And nothing has ever been more true in 2020.