Though it is difficult to make direct application of what the Desert Mothers have to say, I will go ahead and give it the old (post) college try:
It seems to me that Western Christian culture readily accepts direct application of instruction be it from Scripture, wisdom literature, or otherwise. We do not like to wrestle with things or try and understand subtlety or nuance. We like to take instruction from the page or the podcast and stamp it onto our lives no frills, no muss, no fuss.
If I am going to apply this standard to my reading of the desert mothers, I have got very little out of them. Luckily, I am in a long-term relationship with textual nuance. Despite the cultural, chronological, and ideological barriers separating us, a big, life-changing application I get from reading them is that I am married to convenience. In fact, I have come to believe that convenience is a basic human right that will grant human dignity. The luxury of living where, when and how I do has blinded me to the sheer luck of the draw that I experienced thus far in life.
The Desert Mothers are calling me out of my bourgeoisie stupor and into a life of inconvenience. There is so much in my life that I do just to save time, energy, and resources.
Why? I am so busy moving on to the next thing and thinking about the thing after that and then making sure my calendar is up to date while returning texts and cleaning out my inbox before running to work early so I can leave early to meet a friend for coffee and then head home spend time with my roommates, that I forget why I started this paragraph.
In essence, I’m so busy doing whatever-it-is that God has told me to do that I forget to do what God has told me to do and just be with him. That is at the heart of the Gospels, that God dwelt among us and was present with humanity in our brokenness. And now, even after the resurrection and ascension, God has sent the advocate, the Holy Spirit, to dwell with us as we negotiate through life.
Do I dwell with the Holy Spirit though? Do I rest my head on Jesus’ shoulder like the beloved disciple did? The disciple did it after dinner, probably right when we start to clean up the plates and regret that it is our turn to do the dishes.
The Ammas taught me that opportunities abound for meeting God and it is best when we don’t rush to them. Making things easier for ourselves often times makes them more difficult for God to speak to us and for us to hear him when he whispers. We are impatient to have God speak to us. At least, I know that I am. It would just be so convenient if, during my morning quiet time, I got to hear a good word from the Lord. Then I have the rest of my day to do whatever it is that I do.
How often is that the case? Not really all that often, if ever. God will operate on Gods time and it is not my duty to be impatient. In fact, I would argue, it is sinful.
“Let’s explore this mindset of impatience a little more closely. It makes two fundamental assumptions. Assumption number one is that resources and time are in short supply. This is certainly the language of the market. The market depends on creating the notion of scarcity, so that consumers will commit to an ever-higher price for goods that seem quicker, better, finer, stronger, slicker, safer. But the kingdom of God is not the market. In the kingdom of God, God gives disciples everything they need to do the work God calls them to do…
Assumption number two is that God’s work of redemption is somehow incomplete, that there was something God was either too busy, or too forgetful, or in too much of a hurry to do, or in some other way constrained from getting done in Jesus.”
The Ammas taught me that my idol of convenience is impatience with the Lord and that to live simply is to banish that idol. Its not so much that my need to have a high speed internet connection or a quick and easy cup of coffee is a sin, but that my inability to wait for, and appreciate those things is a sign of my deeper, more problematic impatience with God.
What is my response to be? Short of moving to the desert, I can inconvenience myself for God. If I have a hard time waiting to merge in traffic or eat dinner, there is no telling the shabby condition of my heart. I can start to attain more perfect and holy patience with more perfect and holy waiting. There is enough time to do what needs to be done. God does not change. Jesus died once and for all and if that is enough for God, that must be enough for me, no matter the speed of the internet connection.
 Quotation taken from, ‘The Exasperating Patience of God’ delivered by Sam Wells at the Faith in Conflict Conference at Coventry Cathedral, February 26, 2013