Saint Simeon Stylites achieved notability in the 5th century AD for living 37 to 47 years (accounts differ) on top of a small platform near Aleppo in Syria. He started on one that was nine feet off the ground, gradually increasing the height till he was on one that was fifty feet up. Though he was an ascetic monk who sought to get away from people so that he could pray and meditate, more people were drawn to him because of his unusual practice. When he died on September 2, 459 AD, a disciple of his found him stooped over in prayer. Apparently as he was seeking God in prayer, he left his body and this earthly life to speak with Him in person.
Persons of prominence in the imperial government as well as in the church sought his counsel, received his letters, and respected his wisdom. Commoners also would come to visit and consult with him. They would climb a ladder to come within conversation range of him.
He preached against profanity and usury and encouraged temperance and compassion. Quite a man of influence and yet he never left his perch to initiate any of it. God works in mysterious ways through some very mysterious, even rather odd, people. Such heroic self sacrifice can inspire a person to want to do some great thing in the name of a higher cause or purpose.
French poet, journalist and author, Anatole France, was a small boy when he read about Saint Simeon. It was an incredible act of holiness, the young Anatole thought; to live on top of a pole, on a small platform, for decades. Kind of inspiring.
So he decided that he was called to perform a similar act of heroic holiness. He went into the kitchen of his home, climbed up on top of a cabinet, and sat there. He stayed all morning on his little perch. At lunch time, he gave up on this idea and came down.
His mother was quite intuitive and could discern what was going on and how her son was feeling about it. Sitting up there for those few hours seemed like a good idea at the time; however, it proved to be a more difficult commitment than he could keep. Anatole's mother said, "Now you mustn't feel bad about this. You have at least made the attempt, which is more than most people have done. But you must remember that it is almost impossible to be holy only in your own house."
It is interesting what motivates a person to do something we would consider unusual. The same God whom Saint Simeon worshiped and prayed to, is the God to whom I pray. Simeon wanted to be close to God, to serve Him with his life and his energy. And so do I. But I have never been moved spiritually to climb atop a pole and sit there. Yet he was so moved. The same God who conversed with him over 1500 years ago is with me today, moving me to do what I am called and gifted to do.
Young Anatole made an attempt to mimic a great accomplishment. But he soon tired from the effort, having discovered that the activity is not the accomplishment. His mother noted that true holiness (the life set apart, dedicated to God) is not achieved within the comfort of your own home (your comfort zone). It's is to be in the world out there and remaining distinctly different from it. For some that may mean climbing a pole. But for most of us, it means, as Jesus says in His prayer for the disciples, to be in the world but not of it. (John 17:13-19)
Do you agree with the above ideal? Consider that merely agreeing with the above statement is nothing. How can you truly be in the world and not of it, if you don't know what that looks like in your life? Unless you are spending time in God's word and in prayer, you can't know. How can such insight find its way into your heart and mind if allow no time nor spend any effort in opening yourself to it?