The Cloth of Discouragment

drapedclothHave you ever had the experience of  a heavy cloth being draped over your soul  without being able to place a name on it?  An experience that stayed with you until you opened it to prayer in a bit of quiet space?  This happened to me this past week.   I was leading an online course and technical difficulties pushed their way into the time. Suddenly students were locked out of the class, microphones were alive with such booming echoes when students tried to participate that it prohibited them from being able to respond. In the end, I felt I hadn’t been able to provide a hospitable hour for the students.  It felt as if my body were heavy, my mind stuck and my soul sunken.  It was the next morning, as I was  driving home from dropping the  kids at school, that a scripture phrase dropped down.

Deut 1:21b “‘fear not, neither be discouraged.” The cloth was named – discouragement.  And the fear uncovered .  With the naming the cloth lost some of its power.

This particular passage from Deuteronomy  comes during the Mosaic memoirs of Israel’s journey from Sinai to Transjordan.  It is time to move. The people are to take possession of a new land but they are hesitant and afraid. They doubt God’s plan although he has shown his presence throughout their Exodus journey and desert years.  They tell each other that the people and things of the land ahead are bigger, taller, stronger than anything they can overcome. They turn away from the way ahead.   I had been feeling this same way after the course. The obstacles were too great to overcome: they were bigger, taller and stronger.    Fortunately for me, God sent several angels of encouragement from a variety of communities  to help me  combat this heavily draped cloth.  And the cloth lost more of its power and I became less disheartened and had a renewed energy that could be directed toward resolving the issues rather than giving up.  I had forgotten at least two messages that I have had to learn consistently in my life:  that God requires faithfulness from me and not perfection; and, secondly, God’s Spirit flows into and through challenging situations with vigor and energy and life when I am drained and discouraged.  I am not alone.  The following blog post from St Joseph’s Monastery captures what the Rule has to say about the cloth of discouragement. Saint Benedict set about creating a path for our life’s journey.  A call to continual conversion and growth without the expectation of perfection. Have you ever felt the cloth of discouragement  upon you?



About WalkingwithBenedict

I love how scripture comes alive with messages for our lives today. In praying with scripture, we are called into deeper relationship with God and others. We are called to the growth in love, hospitality, peace, humility, stewardship and hope. St Benedict's Rule provides a lens for how scripture can be lived in our lives today whether we live inside or outside a monastery.
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8 Responses to The Cloth of Discouragment

  1. Jo-El says:

    Thank you for this imagery of the draped cloth of discouragement.
    I have never heard of discouragement this way before but discouragement can be very heavy and almost paralyze you…your motivation is dwindling.
    It is a gift from God that you are able to name it. It is an imagery for me to hold on to for years to come.


  2. pjgrey says:

    Gail, your written experience gives fresh meaning to the word “appalling.” We use a white pall to cover a coffin and it signifies resurrection.
    At times like these we need friends to guide us through and a sacred word to lift us up. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.


  3. Philonise Maria, OSB says:

    Hello All-
    Wow! What a powerful reflection on the everyday mundane things that can zap our energy. Yes Gail, I too have experienced that feeling.
    My mother taught me something about 30 years ago that I have never forgotten. She told me, “When things get tough, say thank you Lord. God always gives us exactly what we need when we need it so, you just keep thanking God. Thank God for all that you are at this present moment, all that you have, and all that is to come, that which has yet to be revealed to you”. Her words really helped me to regain my perspective. Even after all these years her words echo in my heart reminding me that the Holy Spirit is ever present, and ever active. You are so right, we are never traveling alone. There is a third message I heard in your sharing, gratitude. Remember to be grateful. Thanks so much for sparking my own reflection!


  4. Renee says:

    I can relate to the ‘cloth’ or drape. This year I have been especially ‘covered’ by WHT I’ve to learn is ‘acedia’. This has an aspect of discouragement but is so subtle yet heavy until I name it. The Lord is teaching me much about walking ‘in’it rather than not. Thanks for the post!


    • Yes Renee, I agree… The naming seems to remove some of its power. My experience and that of those I speak with equate acedia with apathy and spiritual restlessness or boredom. How do you define it from your experience? I find prayer a strong remedy … And for you, what combats or helps you walk in in? I would appreciate your perspective.


      • Renee says:

        I’m only a bit familiar with the classical definitions of acedia, but, yes, it does come with apathy, restlessness, boredom. For me it shows up as thoughts such as ‘This is stupid’, ‘It doesn’t really matter’, and if I don’t watch out my spiritual disciplines and habits slip away. The discouragement is both in ‘how did this happen?’ and ‘I’ll never get it’…also thoughts from the acedia place. Even naming that aspect can lessen the burden of discouragement. My biggest discouragement is in not having a local, deep seeking community of believers. My parish is in love with Jesus, worshipping HIm alone…but I’ve yet to have a regular group dedicated to things such as what you’re discussing here. So, my ‘habits’ an often slip away more quickly without such encouragement and accountability. Journaling, going to mass, sticking with my habits as best I can, going out into nature, and scheduling retreats-both mini and maxi, all help to keep me on track!


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