My life there and afterwards

The “Soup” Teaching

Life in 2009 and 2010 was so stressful for me, daily dread and anxiety, that the trauma of it still prevents me from remember things in an accurate time sequence. But I am certain that this teaching was either in 2009 or 2010. It was very recent, before my leaving.

The “Soup” teaching: The Community’s leader got the sisters together for one of her teachings. It was this: life together is like a soup. Like the story of the rock soup. The atmosphere in the Convent is a soup and we all bring our ingredients to it. It is a spiritual soup, so whatever we add to the soup is ingested by everyone. This goes far beyond our words and actions. It includes our every thought, desire and sin. Every time we have an ugly or rebellious thought it added an element of evil to the soup. The only way to have a life together that was filled with the presence of God was to stop all thoughts that were against each other and against obedience. Obedience was the highest calling.

The effect of this on me was not to free me into a loving spirit of kindness to one other. I did not see any of the other sisters reacting in happiness either. It did not feel like a call to brotherly love. It felt like a condemnation for all the struggles I was going through, and an accusation that I was causing harm and trouble to others by my inner struggles. It felt like another layer of guilt on me. Now not only was I walking dangerously in my own life by being unhappy with our life together, but I was also causing a spirit of unrest in the whole Convent by my thoughts. Looking back, I wonder how many of the other sisters were feeling exactly the same as I was, because I remember it being a very quiet and somber response to her teaching. In the days afterwards there was not an outpouring of love among us. It was business as usual, with everyone living their own separate lives. I was Senior Sister still, and no one came to me to talk about this, or to discuss how this affected them. I found this unusual, because a lot of sisters did come to me to talk about their personal struggles.

In retrospect, looking back at my role as Senior Sister, I think the leaqder was using me to keep the lid on the unrest at the Convent in two ways. (1) I have a naturally cheerful disposition and am always trying to look at the bright side of things, find a blessing in whatever is happening, and smiling at people, trying to make them feel better. I think I am overly that way, (perhaps a coping and/or escape mechanism) and that she used that characteristic of mine to smooth things over and keep people in line, to keep them giving in to the stresses of our life. (2) The role of Sr. Sr. was such that we gave weekly and sometimes daily reports to the leader of every person who had talked with us. Everyone knew this, so a lot of their troubles they kept to themselves. We all did. Before I was Sr. Sr. I never wanted to go talk with them. It was like talking to the police if I was trying to hide some crime. No matter what I would talk about, I was always faced with feedback such that I came away feeling like I was committing a crime, that all my troubles were my sin. The things I heard most often were that my troubles were because of my rebellion, and idolatry with my children. I understood how the sisters felt about talking with authority, so I always tried to be kind and gentle, unlike some of the other Sr. Srs. But I did still have to give those reports to the leader.

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