Keeping Unnecessary Interruptions Out

When my mom and a friend visited some years ago, I played tour guide around Italy. Rome, Venice, and the usual tourist areas. And they loved it all. But we have friends all over, so we also traipsed the smaller towns and villages. Staying in people’s homes, they saw The Real Italy!

But our visit to the Este castle in Ferrara led to a nearby church, where an eerie feeling pervaded. Evoked perhaps from walking over people long dead and buried. Members of the Este family lie buried beneath the floor. And I’m not sure I’d like worshiping over dead people.

But the guidebook also showed a nunnery, open to visitation, which piqued my interest. Ancient churches and buildings, filled with equally ancient paintings wearied me. It baffles me why people travel halfway around the world just to view one painting after another. But to each his own!

“Even a nunnery would be better than this!” I thought. At least we would find some life there!

Mom and Patsy agreed. So we marched next door, thinking to just walk straight in. Like at a tourist site. That’s the way the book described it, anyway.

“Ring for admittance,” the sign said, so I rang. And the door creaked slowly open as if on magic hinges. Revealing a brown enameled wall, with one inhospitable looking door barring the way. And a tiny foyer dismally devoid of life.

“So much for finding life here!” I thought, peering through the scant light filtering down from the high deeply set windows. The place was about as welcoming as the castle dungeon! “Let’s get out of here,” Patsy whispered, even though it seemed there were none to hear.

And then we heard, “What do you want?”

“Ah, we were hoping, or that is, we wanted to visit the nunnery,” I, as the only one of our trio who could speak Italian, stuttered nervously. Gaping about to see from where that hushed, monotonic voice issued.

It was only then that we spied the strange window, revolving, but never opening.

Only later did I learn that all cloisters have these turns (doors or windows) used for delivery of food and necessities. Revolving windows or doors, although more like totally cased-in water wheels turned sideways, that allow only brief, but invisible communication with the outside world. Much like a revolving door, but made of solid wood panels.

Unable to see either in or out, these turns allowed for the delivery of food and other necessities, without allowing human contact. And thus, shielded the nuns from unnecessary interruptions.

We fled that tomb-like atmosphere, glad to return to fresh air and sunshine, surrounded by people.

And although part of me admires the spirit of devotion and consecration which must lead to such vows, I can’t help but compare such a life to Christ’s command to make disciples.
How does one fulfill this command, secluded from contact with others?

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:19).

Yet they had one thing which often seems sadly lacking in our everyday lives. A sort of holy hush or rest.

Although that eerie silence didn’t make me feel restful, it did make me feel the need for it. Cloistered living seems, to me, man’s way of trying to do what only the Holy Spirit can do. Man’s way of trying to enter the rest of God’s presence.

Barred and closed turnstiles don’t seem to supply the answer. Yet we do need barriers in our lives.

Limits, time schedules, and definite restrictions to aid in keeping unnecessary interruptions out. That say, “thus far, and no more.” Limits to TV, internet, entertainment, and wasting time. Because a life filled with unnecessary distractions hinders us from entering God’s rest.

The gate we need is self-discipline, which never comes easily. But we need to work at it if we are to enter God’s rest. For by keeping unnecessary interruptions at bay, we create space for the holy hush of his presence.

And it’s in that atmosphere that we can hear what he has to say. What are you hearing?

[Image: beach in Puglia ©TheScorziellos]

6 thoughts on “Keeping Unnecessary Interruptions Out

  1. Sheila, it sounds like your visit to the nunnery was quite the experience. I loved the analogy you used for cloistered living. As I get older, I have a tendency to stay home more. I have to be intentional about getting out among people on the days I do not work. I want to be about the work the Lord has for me, and it surely includes loving on people. Thanks for the reminder to let the light shine on my face every day.

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    1. Thanks Leah, and I understand. Because it was a reminder to myself too! We need a certain amount of our ‘cloistered’ time. But I need to remember that it’s supposed to fuel me for getting out, LOL!

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  2. This is something I struggle with on all sorts of levels. It’s easier to be secluded and just live my quiet life than to be out doing some days. And we certainly need those times of quiet and being alone to refocus. I’ve also tried to intentionally make my times when I do have to be out, more meaningful by being open to share more. Great truths here – thank you for sharing these thoughts with us!

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    1. Thank you Rebekah. I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggles with balance! As an INFJ (introvert & other stuff that I never can remember), it’s easier for me to cloister myself. But, thankfully, the Lord keeps pushing me out the door!!

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  3. Wow, Sheila, What a picture you painted with this post! I admit I am sometimes guilty of cloistered living. It is easier to avoid and live secluded than to keep pushing back the darkness. I needed to hear this today. Thank you my friend.

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    1. Thanks AJ. It was a strange, rather eery experience. And I think what it spoke to my heart was to keep balance. We need a certain amount of seclusion. For out of that come our strength to share and give. But we’ve got to get out into society as well. I (as an INFJ) tend to stay cloistered. But I’m glad that the Lord reminds me–OK, now go out and share what I’ve given you!! Thanks for your encouragement, and have a great week-end!

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