A little over a year ago, due to what turned out to be a medical false alarm, I found myself in a neurologist’s office, undergoing a battery of tests. Most memorable was the balance test. I was asked to step onto a cushioned pad barefoot, facing a blank wall, and simply stand still for few minutes. Beneath the pad, electronic sensors recorded every slight shift of my weight.
I was then asked to repeat the process blindfolded. Whoa! I had never before realized how much my sense of balance depended on visual cues. Although I actually passed the test, there was no doubt I was much more wobbly with my eyes closed.
I thought of this experience when I read what Cistercian monk Michael Casey writes about stability in the life of faith. After noting that the Latin root for stability is stare, “to stand,” Casey observes that it is very difficult for human beings to stand still without moving: “The best way to remain upright is not to stay still but to keep walking.” He then concludes: “Stability is not immobility. It is the knack of remaining constant in the midst of change.” The best image of stability, he suggests, might be a surfer, balanced on the surfboard amid the swirling waves.*
Keeping your balance is a constant, complex process – whether or not you are on a surfboard. Physicians tell us
that balance depends on the inner ear, the eyes, skin pressure receptors in our feet and muscle and joint sensory receptors, all coordinated by the central nervous system.
Even so, stability in our walk of faith requires more than just dogged persistence. It requires input from prayer and spiritual guides, scripture, and our communities of faith. It demands paying attention to all aspects of our life – physical and mental, our social life and our solitude – and bringing them all into the presence of God. Stability in our life of faith is never a finished product; it is an ongoing process, ever growing, ever learning.
Casey is clearly right. Stability is not immobility. Jesus always invites his disciples to follow, to move forward, to grow and be transformed.
*Michael Casey, Strangers to the City: Reflections on the Beliefs and Values of the Rule of Saint Benedict (Paraclete Press, 2005), p. 191.