Q: How can I build a life gratefully when the world seems about ready to cave in? — Rob S., Colorado

A: +There is a beautiful poem in German by Joseph von Eichendorff, in which the poet says to God, “You are the One who breaks up above us those roofs that we so firmly build, so that we may see the heavens. And therefore I will not despair.”

The poet’s words remind me of the little booths that our Jewish brothers and sisters build on the Feast of Tabernacle every year, to remember the time when they lived purely on hope, trusting God to meet their needs. They went out, and there was manna on the ground. They had nothing else to live on but manna. They lived on surprise, so to speak. Unimaginable surprise! So even today they build these temporary shelters, live in them for a whole week, and celebrate.

That’s how we should build as pilgrims, in harmony with the instructions given the Jewish people: “Build the walls so lightly that you are still aware that you have neighbors. And build the roofs so lightly that you can look through and see the stars.” That kind of roof God does not have to break. If we build our life in that form, we are people of hope. If we build any more firmly, and sure enough, most of our religious institutions have built a lot more firmly, we should expect that God shatters it all, to make room for the unimaginable, so that we will see the stars.

–Your Brother David

Br. David Steindl-Rast Trust
Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

About the author

Brother David Steindl-Rast — author, scholar, and Benedictine monk — is beloved the world over for his enduring message about gratefulness as the true source of lasting happiness. Known to many as the “grandfather of gratitude,” Br. David has been a source of inspiration and spiritual friendship to countless leaders and luminaries around the world including Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas Merton, and more. He has been one of the most important figures in the modern interfaith dialogue movement, and has taught with thought-leaders such as Eckhart Tolle, Jack Kornfield, and Roshi Joan Halifax. His wisdom has been featured in recent interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Krista Tippett, and Tami Simon and his TED talk has been viewed almost 10,000,000 times. Learn more about Br. David here.