More From Linda Coggin

June 10, 2022 by Linda Coggin (British Columbia, Canada)

I believe God speaks to us through the everyday occurrences of our lives.  Sometimes things happen that seem unrelated at first glance; but when we pay close attention, we recognize that God is speaking through events, people, and places. And that is what I experienced during my retreat at the monastery that I recorded in my devotional. 

The vespers scripture for the evening I arrived was from Acts 10. God’s declaration certainly caught my attention: “What God has made clean, you must not call profane” (Acts 10:15).  It took courage and patience for me to ask prayerfully, What do I profane that God blesses? I was surprised that answers came in ways I didn’t expect—the procession of monks with their graying hair and the silver bark of the birch tree in the center of the garden that were not obvious connections. And it wasn’t just Peter’s story through which God spoke. 

The next morning, I just happened to pass a room where a priest was giving the welcome talk to new guests at the retreat.  I was caught off-guard hearing his voice; after all, this was a place of silence.  I decided to join the meeting.  This man’s story was another piece of God’s answer for me.  He had been a priest for almost 50 years when he came to the monastery at age 70, twenty years over the age of admittance (25–50 years).  The monks told him to come try it out anyway, and he never left.  It didn’t matter that he was already an ordained priest; he still had to complete the required five and a half years of formation.  When I met him, he had been at the monastery for 14 years and had been the guesthouse host for a year — a new job for him.

His experience was similar to my own story.  I left my career when I was 55 to pursue another degree.  Now, at 61, I was discouraged that my age seemed like a barrier to beginning something new.  I didn’t see my age as something God could bless.

When the priest finished his story, he encouraged us to “be who you are, be who God made you.  If you are an introvert, be that.”  For me, the message I heard was if I am a thinker, a lover of words, be that. If I am 61 and my hair is gray, be that person. 

In Acts 10:13, Peter was told, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.”  Peter was encouraged to see beyond the rules and regulations of his faith that he had followed all of his life.  Peter was able to confess to the large gathering at the home of Cornelius, “You yourselves know that it is improper for a Jew to associate with or to visit an outsider, but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”

God was saying that to me as well, moving me past my own prejudice against age to see new possibility instead of only limitation. Whatever deficits we perceive in others or ourselves are not how God sees us.  This is good news!

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