No, I’m not talking about trees and clouds today, although that is an important topic. As part of our theme this week, I wanted to address the environment you establish around yourself for success. We hear it all the time. There are many sayings that begin with the words, “Surround yourself with…” If you want to be a successful business leader, surround yourself with images of business success. If you want to be a successful musician, surround yourself with examples of successful musicians. What if you want to be a good Orthodox Christian? What then?
The idea of a Godly environment isn’t something we tend to much though into, but it matters. Inside the Church, just about every detail is carefully, or at least should be, thought out to reinforce the reality that we are worshipping the Living God, the Creator of the Universe. From the placement of the icons to the layout of the soleas and nave, the physical environment inside the Church makes a difference.
Our daily lives should be no different. We should consider everything in our “circle of existence” when it come to our environment if we want to live Godly lives. Just about every self-help program includes the suggestion of setting up constant physical reminders, they call them anchors, to reinforce the desired goal. Have you ever considered what reminders you have, or don’t have, to remind you of your heavenly goals?
Let’s start with the easy ones. Just about every Orthodox Christian I know wears a cross and has an icon at home. Some even have entire family altars dedicated to prayer. Consider placing an icon in your car, on your desk at work, on your computer home screen. There should be an icon everywhere you will look, within reason of course, since you don’t live in an Orthodox Christian Monastery. At least, spaces that are your personal spaces, even at work, you should have a visual reminder not only that God is with you, but that you are working everyday to be more like Him. I have found icons in my car help me remain calm during heavy traffic, so having the visual reminders help maintain a godly mind.
There is saying I learned once that reminds us that music charms the soul. In fact, psychologists have shown that music touches a very different part of the human brain that speaking or reading. It is one of the reason, I’m convinced, that the Holy Spirit inspired the Church to sing the worship rather than just speak it. Memories are created with music, so if you want to have Godly memories, try listening to Godly music. During Great Lent, as an example, I only listen to byzantine chanting in the car rather than the normal political talk radio that normally fills my car. The chanting soothes my soul. If you are doing some chores around the house, consider listening to some church music instead of rock and roll. Not only will it soothe your soul, it can turn cleaning the house into prayer. I’m all about two birds with one stone when it comes to my environment. The area of music is where, unfortunately, we Orthodox in America have fallen short. We don’t have enough of what I might call “Orthodox non-sacred music” which is not hymns and prayers, but the lyrics reinforce our Orthodox ethos. In the current secular musical scene, between the immoral lyrics and pornographic videos, listening to music can be very ungodly. I am thankful for the few examples of music supported by Ancient Faith Radio and the Orthodox Christian Network, but in that category, we have a long way to go.
A great deal can be said about creating a Godly environment but let me leave it at this. Everything you see, touch, smell, taste, hear, affects your soul. Whether you are decorating your home, or choosing where to vacation with your family, especially during Great Lent, consider how your environment is helping you live a Godly life. If it doesn’t help, it may be hurting, or at the very least of no benefit at all. As we will hear in a couple weeks, “Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night, and blessed is that servant whom He finds being vigilant.” If we want to reach heaven, and live with God, we can’t afford to have an environment that doesn’t not help us remain focused. We need a Godly environment.