This is an old post but we thought the words might still hold their potency for some of you students out there…
Students have a tendency to cram. I say this as one who has often found himself on next to no sleep in a brave last-minute attempt to try and finish off some piece of coursework due the next day. But when I say “cram”, I mean more than just the usual night-before emergency revision session.
Timetables full of academic activities including but not limited to lectures, seminars, tutorials and self-directed study. The rest of our time is engaged with the social life that equally defines what ‘studying’ at university is all about – parties, pints, lunches, brunches, hang-outs, night-outs – an endless barrage of activity that can make even the most gregarious of extroverts wince a little inside. And even those of us who align ourselves more with the introvert end of the spectrum can often find joy in the busyness.
There is a risk, however, to equate busyness with usefulness. Whether we are supporting those who are closest to us or making good use of our time by completing tasks, life can take on…well…a life of its own.
The real danger is that our faith can become inextricably tied up with ‘doing’ and that, I daresay, can be found particularly in Christian student communities. It’s not long before the regular gatherings, socials, prayer meetings and outreach events can start to wear us down if we haven’t figured out a healthy spiritual balance in our lives. Even friendship evangelism that is meant to stem from a natural overflow of love can become contrived. Our one-on-one time with the Father gets relegated to the thing we ‘do’ in order to ‘do’ all the other things of life, rather than being the Source and focus of each day.
For me personally, “New Monasticism” is positively counter-cultural to the fast-moving society around us, especially within the bustling student universe.
Creating space and giving ourselves permission to reflect, contemplate and to just ‘be’ with Jesus is imperative to running the race set before us.
I find that following a daily rhythm of prayer isn’t another thing to add to my To-Do List but is instead what my To-Do List is structured around. It’s in those scheduled moments of prayer I get the chance to catch my breath, refresh in the Father’s love, and realign with His purposes before diving back into work again.
It is partly a disciplinary process as well. So even though sometimes during these check-ins with God I may not ‘feel’ or ‘hear’ anything from Him, I choose to believe that He is present with me. This then fuels me the rest of my day.
These appointed times are then not something I need to get ‘right’ but instead they serve as reminders to me that Christ’s grace is a constant flow that is well and truly sufficient.
My prayer and hope for my generation is that we know more of the gentle loving-kindness of God through the gift of His son Jesus, where our identity is ultimately found, and that nothing else is worth more than living life with Him.
To finish, a quote from the Philokalia that I came across recently sums things up aptly: “Stillness is not simply silence but an attitude of listening to God and of openness towards Him”. So although God didn’t necessarily create all of us to be deep-thinking contemplatives nor calls many to live as modern-day monks, each and every one of us is greeted with the friendly whisper from our Daddy in Heaven to “Be still and know that I am Lord”.
This was written by student Grant Holden who is studying Animation at Edinburgh College of Art. He attends St Paul’s & St George’s Church where he can sometimes be found boogieing when playing electric guitar during worship. He is passionate about the arts being combined with Kingdom values and has a heart to see contemplative prayer embedded more within society.