Sexless and Satisfied? — Pt. III (8 Minute Read)

by Derek Snook

[This post is taken from a chapter-in-progress for a (possible) new book! I originally wrote it during my 2 week stay at the Taizé Community in France. You can read part 1 here! You can read part 2 here!]

That afternoon I pulled out a pack of colored pencils I got at a Christmas secret Santa exchange in New York City. Somehow they magically made the trip in the bottom of my suitcase. I drew a picture of a car—like the one I was thinking of buying, roof rack and all—driving on a yellow brick road to Mongolia, past a river and a lake, towards blue, purple, and green mountains and a city of skyscrapers. On my desk was a “friendship with Jesus,” icon. I placed it so that it looked like Jesus was putting his arm around my picture instead of Peter, who gets enough attention as it is.

The next day Brother Richard told us about Nicademous, a religious leader who, secretly believing in Jesus, came to see him under the cover of darkness.

“See, we all focus on where we come from, our status, our achievements, and we focus on where we are going, our projects and plans, but those born of the Spirit don’t worry about where they come from.”

As we sat around the table, Brother Richard invited us to imagine Jesus and Nicademous in a dark upper room in Jerusalem with a window open under the cover of night. “The wind blows wherever it pleases,” Jesus tells Nicademous. “You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.”

“The word the gospel uses means both wind and Spirt,” Brother Richard said. “Even as the wind blows among them, Jesus is telling Nicademous about the Spirit.” A grin spread across Brother Richard’s face. 

“Just like the wind, Jesus is saying that you can not catch the Spirit, but you can experience it,” Brother Richard continued. “This makes us both free and humble as the wind.

See, we all focus on where we come from, our status, our achievements, and we focus on where we are going, our projects and plans, but those born of the Spirit don’t worry about where they come from. They don’t know where they’re going to. A bad past—or a good past as we saw with the Rich Young Ruler—can keep us from the things of God. But those filled with the Spirit do not worry about the past or the future. The future is in God’s hands.

 The picture I drew that represented in my heart the trip from Mongolia to London.

The picture I drew that represented in my heart the trip from Mongolia to London.

When Jesus tells people that they don’t know where he’s coming from or where he’s going to, he’s saying that he’s both come from and is going to God, and that those born of the Spirit have their origin and destination in God. The Spirit is a daily invitation to life with God.”

I wrote down two pages of Brother Richard’s exact words.

The Spirit, too, is part of Taize. I overheard a couple talking about a man walking from Holland to Spain and back, stopping at Taize in both directions. He had been walking for five months, each day not knowing where he would sleep that night. His wife had passed away. He was mourning for her.

The Spirit comes with fruits, like self-control and patience, which according to Brother Richard “is not passive but full of energy and a long passion.” The Spirit guides us, telling us the difference between pride and perseverance, whether to live in community or sign a 30 year mortgage.

The Brothers themselves are full of the Spirit. They fly around the world in the name of reconciliation, to North Korea and Ferguson, Missouri, begging everyone to love one another. They share their belongings and have denounced all possessions, including family inheritances. They joke that they will have enough to live on if each of us buys a 40 cent postcard from the gift shop. 

At Taize, I began to reconcile in silence with Derek and the Spirit. I imagined being able to fly like Peter Pan and The Lost Boys, playing basketball together, saving Tink, fighting bad guys, and never knowing but always excited about what the next day may bring.

I told Brother Emile about all of this. When he said he’s never seen Hook, I tell him that we need to have a movie night in the silent house. He doesn’t seem as excited as I am. It’s all I can do to keep from chanting “Rufio! Rufio!”

 

“I suddenly realized at breakfast that my fears of systematic society are not fears at all. It’s hatred. Hatred for the things that keep people I love—including myself—in bondage, from behaving like Children and living with Spirit.”

On Friday, I woke up with fear, again. I think it was because when I suggested to Brother Emile that I stay longer, he said that it would be unlikely that I would be allowed to, and I didn’t know where I would go on Sunday.

In the morning service I wondered if maybe I was having a panic attack.

I wanted to talk to somebody about my pain but because of the silence, I couldn’t.

At breakfast I realized that—even though we’d never even really spoken—I was going to miss these guys. I was going to miss the Spaniard who seemed so happy to be alive. I was going to miss the Frenchman with the baby face. I was going to miss the Dutchman who I had been winking and smiling and making silent jokes with. It was obvious that he was growing before our very eyes. At every Bible study he needed someone to help him find the book and chapter, and then afterwards he’d run outside to ask Brother Richard more questions. I watched him journal at length and then speak at one service with the leader of Taize before walking away with a beaming smile. At one of our last meals, in an act of heroic leadership, when Dixon’s replacement forgot to finish with a song, the Dutchman began to sing. When he realized that I didn’t know the words—the song was in German—he quickly fetched his song book from his book bag and turned to the page so I could join in. Then he put his arm around me, and I gave him a high five. 

I was going to miss the Belgian, who, after watching him wash his fruit each day before cutting off any small bruises while wearing a perfectly ironed button down shirt and scarf, I began to pray for any anxious perfectionistic tendencies he may have. I was even going to miss “ole lock and load.” I sat next to him at our final breakfast while he swallowed the Atlantic Ocean. But this time, in my mind, I silently cheered him on.

I suddenly realized at breakfast that my fears of systematic society are not fears at all. It’s hatred. Hatred for the things that keep people I love—including myself—in bondage, from behaving like Children and living with Spirit.

 The bells at Taize that announce the start of each service.

The bells at Taize that announce the start of each service.

———

The classical music stopped. Dixon paused. He closed his eyes. He breathed deeply. He scrunched his eye brows. Then he opened his mouth. “In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful,” he sang. “In the Lord, I will rejoice,” the rest of us joined in. But when we sang the line, “Look to God, do not be afraid,” I quit. I looked down at my plate. I put my hand over my head to shield my face. The others continued, “Lift up your voices, the Lord is near! Lift up your voices, the Lord is near!” With my other hand, I wiped away a single tear. 

The tear was the fears the others had unknowingly so gently reprimanded with their song. The tear was gratitude for their voices and their presence. The tear was a feeling of solidarity with the humans around me, from India, Korea, Belgium, Holland, and Spain, whom I had never even spoken to.

The deepest spiritual experiences I’ve had on this journey have been the strongest communities. I’ve noticed that at L’arche, Moria*, and Taize, there is—among great pain—a Child and Spirit likeness about each that is impossible to not want every day. It would be easier to dismiss one experience, but the accumulation is making me wonder if I’ve seen too much.

What if these places, L’Arche, Moria*, and Taize, hold values closer to the way the world should be, the world that’s worth living and fighting for, and what we call the “Real World” is the one obstructing those values, the one Brother Richard says Jesus wants to set us free from?

I want to change the “Real Word.” I want it to be more like the Brother’s, where each day in community, like Children, we fly to and fro with the Spirit in the name of love. Come to think of it, maybe that email was on the right track about my “Peter Pan lifestyle,” after all. 

*Moria is the refugee camp I volunteered at for two weeks. I wrote a future chapter called ‘Here’s 3 reasons it’s easier to find God in a mostly Muslim Refugee Camp than a church,’ but then grew afraid and still haven’t published it.”

[This post is taken from a chapter-in-progress for a (possible) new book! I originally wrote it during my 2 week stay at the Taizé Community in France. You can read part 1 here! You can read part 2 here!]

Taizé, sex, Celibacy, Community, Faith, Jesus, Love, Forgiveness, Purpose