I met a man on retreat here a few weeks ago. His name is Mike. He has been here often and told me that he loves it here at the monastery. He seems to love everything about this place -- the monks, the rhythms of the daily chanting of the psalms, the walks he takes down by the lake.
I asked him what he did for a living and he told me that he was a retired truck driver. For 40 years, he drove 18-wheelers all over the country. I figure he must have driven millions of miles. He said that he was married, and he and his wife raised two sons who are doing real well in life.
He was home just a few days each month all during his working years and said that he was very grateful to his wife for being the special wife and mother that she is. It was hard for them to be apart for so many years during their marriage. But it all worked out well, real well.
He mentioned that he felt he had found God here, and told me that such a discovery was a recent one in his life. I listened and wondered. He was so easy to listen to. We were sitting in one of the large and comfortable rooms in the retreat house. He said that he would like to come here again, and bring his wife and sons along. I hope he does.
I imagined him driving all across this vast country. He told me that he rarely listened to the radio as he drove; he said that he liked to ponder things as he drove and that the radio distracted him.
I told him I love driving, and especially liked big truck stops. Those places fascinate me. They are subcultures that dot our interstates and highways. My favorite one is just outside of Wichita, Kan. -- truckers galore and a big store that offers all kinds of trucker items.
He told me that the best stop was off Interstate 80 in Iowa, said the place was like a city. Maybe I will get to see that place, someday.
As he spoke, I listened. I later told him that he surely had a book in him, with all the people he met, the places he had been, the thoughts he had while on the road. He smiled.
I envied him and told him so.
I suppose he looks at me, and maybe thinks that I possess some sense of God, and that is why I came here. Maybe he looks at this monastery as a repository of sacredness, a place where keys can be found to the doorways that lead to an enlightenment as to the nature and presence of the divine.
I do not feel I am privy to such. I cannot speak for the other monks, but as far as I can know anything about myself, I am still looking, still wondering, still thinking. I suppose that is what brought me here, a search, a sense of not being settled, a need to stay put in one place, a place of kindred seekers.
Mike traveled a million or more miles and when he stopped, when he put the final breaks on his big truck, God apparently caught up with him. But does that mean that He was absent all those miles? I do not think so.
Mike kept his eyes on the road ahead, had places to go, schedules to keep, calls home to make. He worked hard to make ends meet, and I think he made every end come together.
I hope that as he grows in the comparative stillness of his new mode of life, that stillness will afford him some clarity as to where he came from., sort of like looking in a rear view mirror to better see what was.
I hope he sees something of God in all the people he met, all the places he stopped, all those he helped and those who helped him along those many miles. For that is the stuff of our lives, though we rarely see it all while it is happening.
We need a reason to stop, and to ponder in order to wonder what we missed the first time around. Maybe me and Mike have that in common. Our travels brought us here. And we met each other and shared prayer. The gift of many miles.
Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212 SW, Conyers. His e-mail address is email@example.com.