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Lunch Break Monasticism

By Amber Noel
February 6, 2023 4 min read

Abba Moses (“Father” Moses) was a Christian desert monk in the 4th century A.D. Famous for his holiness and wise sayings, many people would come to him for advice. They often got more than they bargained for! A man once came to him, asking for a word of wisdom about how to grow in the spiritual life. Abba Moses responded: “Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.” Close down your options, Abba Moses was saying. Get alone, away from “everything," and see what God has to say.

In the book of Isaiah, God’s people have become preoccupied with the fears and false hopes of their neighbors. They are tangled up in conflict and forgetfulness, and losing touch with their Maker. God gives them some tough words diagnosing their scattered situation. And then He says to them: 

In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. Isa 30:15 

Our lives are full. Our world is, in many ways, more complex than it’s ever been. It’s hard to rest, stop, return, and recenter, especially throughout the day. 

There are so many demands on our energy and attention, and we’re so easily filled with conflicts, fears, and false hopes. So what do Isaiah and Abba Moses mean? Should we drop everything and move to a secluded cabin by the lake? Do we never commute, work a job, listen to the news, invest money, make tough decisions, deal with annoying family members, date, marry, or make friends again? 

The thing about true spiritual wisdom is that it will apply to any walk of life. If the monastics had small houses or huts to keep them living simply and close to the voice of God, those of us “in the world” have the freedom to find places and spaces of our own, to draw away from the noise of life, cultivate simplicity in the midst of complexity and even chaos, and listen for God’s voice. 

One way you can do that is by turning small moments in your day into moments for prayer and reflection. Keep it simple. 

One strategy might be to use part of your lunch break. Maybe your lunch break is a literal lunch break at an office job. Maybe it’s nap time, or when the kids are at school. For many of us, the most privacy we might be able to find between 8 AM and 6 PM is in our cars, or in a private office, or even in a closet. Find one of these spaces. And try this:

  • Keep the lighting dim or natural

  • Listen to a passage of Scripture on Dwell, or choose some simple, lyric-free music

  • You may want to just sit in silence (even if you need earplugs!)

  • Let the music, Scripture, or silence evoke an image in your mind

  • If an image doesn’t come, that’s OK

  • You might also look at a cross, a piece of art, or an icon — anything that brings Jesus to the forefront of your mind

  • Breathe. Speak to the Lord if words come. Don’t force anything. Breathe again

  • Begin or end with this prayer from Isaiah:

In returning and rest you shall be saved;              in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.

Try a few sessions of “lunch break monasticism.” Get with God. Place your mind on Jesus. Trust the Holy Spirit. Know you’re loved. Be challenged. It’s popular these days to say, “Find your happy place.” Why not “Find your cell?” It might just teach you everything.

God's Peace

Tinasha - NKJV


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About the author

Amber Noel

Amber Noel lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia, as a magazine editor and moonlights as an author of short fiction, non-fiction, and stage adaptations of novels. Find her podcasting on theology, arts, and Christian leadership here.