In order to learn the faith, many Christians of the first centuries traveled into the desert of North Africa to the monasteries where the solitary monks lived and worked. There, a kind of contract was made between disciple and teacher.
On the disciple’s side, he or she promised to be completely open with the master — trusting to tell the truth about everything going on in her or his life. This wouldn’t always be easy — to make oneself vulnerable, to lay one’s emotional life down on the line, and to confess those secrets harbored deep in the recesses of the heart.
On the other side, the teacher promised to be faithful to the disciple and never abandon them in their journey of learning, discernment and maturity — through all the struggles that journey would bring. There was nothing the student could say about themselves or what they were thinking that would shaken or jeopardize the steadfast faithfulness of the teacher.
This contract between disciple and teacher was one of truthfulness and fidelity. From the early days of Christianity, learning the faith thus represented came to express the relationship Christians have with Jesus. Jesus is our Teacher, our Master, the Lord of all.
Discipleship means to follow Jesus. For us to follow in the Way of Jesus, are we not called upon to be completely truthful and honest to God about who we are? Personal, spiritual growth is enhanced when we are honest and vulnerable with each other and with Jesus in prayer.
Since the Scriptures were written down, the concept of Covenant has been used to describe the relationship between God and God’s people. This ancient, early Christian understanding from the Desert Fathers and Mothers can help us grasp how we relate to God.
A conviction of God’s everlasting, unwavering faithfulness to us opens the door of our hearts to be completely truthful about not only the good and righteous parts of our lives but especially the dark parts we normally wish to hide from others.
Thank you to Laurence Freeman for giving this example about the contract between disciple and teacher in his taped dialogue with the Dalai Lama in January 2013