I'm training to run my first 5K on my 31st birthday
this September. Recently during one of my training sessions, I
looked down at the treadmill and saw the word "Stableflex" written
on the base. I chuckled to myself, due to the juxtaposition of
these two seemingly antithetical ideas "stable" and "flexible."
Undoubtedly, the clever term is used by the manufacturer to
describe the fact that the treadmill itself is flexible, yet
stable, and presumably moves with your own movements. I quickly
realized what a profound idea this treadmill was teaching me,
namely, that flexibility is the key to stability.
As monks, we take three vows: stability, fidelity to the
monastic way of life, and obedience. Stability can mean two things,
really: stability of place and stability of heart. Stability of
place calls the monk to stay in one place, the enclosure of the
monastery, so that stability of heart can take place.
What exactly is stability of heart? The great monastic writer
John Cassian referred to it as "purity of heart," and what it
basically amounts to is one thing: to seek Christ above
all. As monks, we strive to become more loving, more
Christ-like. We strive for this "purity of heart," this "stability
of heart," by maintaining a stability of place. Stability says that
the monk will not expect others to change, but be willing to change
himself. Flexibility is crucial.
The survival of a monastic vocation (or any vocation for that
matter), I'm convinced, is based not on holiness, not on piety, not
on flawless liturgical attendance, but on persistence and
We have to be willing to adapt to ever-changing conditions and
situations. We have to be willing to get back up when we fall. We
have to be willing to let God do His work on us.
Our willingness to be flexible to changing situations and to
other people (and their changing moods!) is what will bring us to
that stability of heart that John Cassian speaks of and,
consequently, a love for Christ that is above all else.
But, in the spirit of the holy Rule, moderation is
crucial. If we are too flexible, we run the risk of lacking real
substance, of lacking depth. On the other hand, if we are too
rigid, we'll break.
For some reason, this idea reminds me of ice cream. If it is too
cold and frozen, you can't scoop it out, let alone eat it!
Alternatively, melted ice cream is no fun either! We must strive
for a happy medium.
So being stable and being flexible aren't antithetical after
all; in fact, they go hand in hand. Our ability to adapt to
ever-changing situations, our ability to flex,is what will
lead us to stability of heart so that nothing will be preferred to
the love of Christ.