Repentance from the American Dream

Robb Davis over at Front Porch Republic published a piece today title A Long Repentance: A Decade of Turning Away from (a Part of) the American Dream. In it he talks about his decision ten years earlier to sell his car and how it changed his family’s life, mostly for the better. He explains that he is using the word “repentance” in it’s more literal meaning and not attaching the usual theological significance to it.

It reminded me of this comment Kathleen Norris recounts in The Cloister Walk (p.295):

A monk in his early thirties once told me that he’d come to the monastery not realizing what a shock it would be to suddenly not have to compete for the things that young men are conditioned to compete for in American society – in his words, “a good salary, a cool car, and a pretty girlfriend. When all of that was suddenly gone,” he said, “and held no account, I felt as if my whole life were a lie. It took me years to find out who God wanted me to be.”

My only thought was, “Gee, why do we have to become a monks to give up on the cash, the cars, and the girls?” We can do that in whatever our pedestrian vocation is. Entering a strict religious order is no necessary prerequisite. It only makes working out some of the details a bit more cut and dried.