Monastery Rehab

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a few weeks now, but leaving Ethiopia and arriving in Tacoma has monopolized my time. My thoughts returned to monastery rehab last night as I watched a film entitled, Calvary with Ben. The film chronicles a week in the life of an Irish priest. It’s a week of particular importance for the priest, as an unknown congregant has declared that he will kill the priest in a week’s time (don’t worry, you find that out in the opening scene of the movie). The movie weaves its way through the stories of the flawed congregants, as well as the imperfect priest.

Calvary brought my thoughts back to a trip that Kate and I made to Bahir Dar before we left Ethiopia. We had a unique tour guide who lead us around Lake Tana and walked us through a couple of island monasteries. At the second monastery, we were greeted by the warm smile of a young monk. At the conclusion of our visit we were invited to share a meal with the monk. Our food and “beer” were blessed by the head priest and we ate our fill of injera and shiro. Our guide informed us that he knew these monks well because he had sent addicts from town to this monastery in order to dry up. I found this news unbelievably encouraging.

As the film last night reminded me, our world is full of hurt, struggle, and pain. This is where the church must exist, in the midst of the mess. The church is a place for pain, hurt, struggle, questions, confusion, ugliness, and exhaustion. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Christ does not speak of solutions or answers, but rather simply promises rest. Respite and repose are what is offered rather than ease and explanations. I think there are moments of clarity to be found within the space of rest, but that is not the promise. Simply rest.

I imagine the battered and defeated addict, carrying all of her hurt and pain onto this island monastery and finding “rest for her soul.” No judgement and no easy solutions. Ah. Sweet Jesus, that’s what it’s about. Thank you for the places and spaces in this life where we find rest. I pray for those who are plagued by grief, strife, and struggle, may they find your rest. May your church around the world be a place that provides divine rest for all those who voyage through life.


Lunch with a monk.


Our tour guide.


Lake Tana


One thought on “Monastery Rehab

  1. Hi Emily, Have been reading all of your posts with appreciation but this one touched me especially deeply. It brought me back in thought to the 3 monasteries Jack and I visited in Wadi Natrun after Treston’s graduation last June. We too met monks with a deep love for Jesus and a deep commitment to the service and healing of others (via pastoral counseling done on cell phones, growing food, etc), even though after they go into the monastery they never leave (except for medical visits and their families visits to them there). Our e-mail exchanges with them since indicated how focused their prayer is on the blessing of all Egyptians. So glad you got to experience that in Ethiopia. May they inspire us all. Just so glad you are Ben are healers and “givers of space” in the community where you live and minister. You are so often in my prayers. In the last years I have found the spiritual discipline of solitude especially life-giving each week. Was so delighted and grateful that you took the time to visit Ella and her family. In a recent skype, the girls reported that you had visited with obvious appreciation and joy. Much love and my prayers as you settle back in. Theo

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