I have a small notebook. It's a Moleskine reporter type notebook that measures 3.5" x 5.5", has a stiff black cover and a neat elastic strap that I can use to either keep it closed or mark a page for easy reference. It also has a little built-in pocket in the back for storing stray notes on scraps of paper. I've used it regularly over the last two years to write down brief descriptions of things seen, or important quotes either from the Bible or from books read, but mostly, just to keep lists of things to do, phone numbers to remember and other mundane information.
I pulled out this notebook a couple of day ago and noticed I was close to filling it up. For no reason, I began looking at all I had written in there and it dawned on me that, despite the rather trivial nature of most of my jottings, the notebook had become a rather good record of my life over the last 24 months. It had become one of the best journals I have ever kept. My first entries tell the story of our last big vacation, to Hawaii, and it has a brief packing list along computations I made for a contest on the plane to calculate the time we would reach the midway point of the flight over the Pacific. It has a brief description of some Army officers I saw at the airport. I suspect they had just returned from Iraq. It notes on things to remember for a new job, common phrases in German to use while on a business trip over there along with a couple of addresses for people I needed to contact. It's a remarkable record.
It got me thinking about St. Benedict and his emphasis in the Rule on the importance of working out our salvation within the boundaries of our daily existence. I wasn't sure I completely understood what he meant but I now have graphic evidence of it; my journal shows a pattern of the mixture of daily routine and (all too rare) sudden insight gained from the Word or other reading. My daily routine is down there.
I asked myself if I see a pattern, in all these mundane details, of the working out of my salvation. I'm not sure I can say one way or the other. There are no great revelations, nor any jottings of great times of prayer or contemplation, just daily concerns and duties. There are, I'm sure, many details I've left out - the work of a neighbor who built a beautiful new deck on a difficult piece of land, or a note on the sighting of the first fawns of the year, and many others. But it occurred to me that the mundane details are the only material I have available to me for use in working out the issue of salvation. Our lives are made up of these details, and the trick is to pay enough attention to them to see the finger of God, not on a reflective basis, but, preferably, in real time. So maybe it's best to say, my journal is a record of missed opportunities.
I think its Benedict's genius that he recognized this and built a life full of mundane detail into the substance of his Rule, with the injunction in the first word of the Rule to "Listen!", pay attention, see God's hand all around us.