What follows is Chapter 1 of a five-part story stemming from just an hour and a half of time spent with God’s people, in God’s house, in response to God’s direction.
This past Sunday morning, I was answering some questions in a devotional book I’ve been re-reading. Actually, I was answering one question, because that’s about as far as I got, and I didn’t even get to finish. The question was this: “Has the pain of your past ever made it hard for you to believe God’s promises and plans for your future? What do you sense He wants to change in your perspective?” (A Confident Heart, Renee Swope, © 2011). The answer I started to write was the equivalent of calling God out. I started to talk about recent prayers for direction that have been met with silence. I talked about how I only want to be where God wants me to be. About how I want to do something with my life that makes a difference in the world, but that all of my recent attempts to do so have been met with closed doors.
I put down my pen and asked God for the thousandth time, “What do You want me to do?” And in that moment, I finally got that clear answer I’d been craving. “It’s time to go back to church.” “Are you sure, God?” I asked. “Yup. It’s time.”
Now let me stop to explain. Since the accident that very easily could have ended my life, I’ve been to church just once or twice. It’s not because I was mad at God or anything like that. It was actually quite the opposite.
My Sunday mornings in the last couple of months have been perfect in every way. I’ve woken up early on my own – no alarm clock, no noisy neighbors, no hungry cat. Just natural waking from the restful sleep that evades me all week long. I’ve bundled myself in my fuzzy robe, gotten a cup of coffee, and displaced the cat from the comfy chair in the living room. Then, with my Bible, notebook, the Book of Common Prayer and the devotional book I’ve been re-reading, I have had the time to sit and bathe in the Word of God. I start with the day’s Psalms as outlined in the BOC (we’re friends, that book and I, so it doesn’t mind the nickname) and take some time to meditate on what I’ve read. (Incidentally, that’s a new skill I’ve picked up. I never understood what it meant to meditate on God’s Word. I get it now.)
It’s such sweet time, the time I take to mull over God’s words, handed down from generation to generation. I can wrestle with those areas where my life experience and God’s Word do not seem to match. I can praise Him for new insight, and even more for gentle reminders of truths long forgotten. Then, I can respond. Not in a hurried, “that’s great, I’ll have to remember that later” kind of way, but in a “how is this going to change my thoughts, behaviors and attitudes in the next 24 hours” kind of way. It’s God and me, locked in a conversation filled with give-and-take, tears and yes, laughter.
No obligations. No schedules. No need to get dressed and drive 35 minutes to church. Just God and me, enjoying each other’s company.
For that season of my life, it was exactly what I needed. It was like a weekly retreat. The kind where you take your Bible and go out into the woods for a few days, but in my own living room for a few hours every Sunday morning. I worshipped so deeply and fully in those Sunday morning hours. It was what my soul had been craving for a long time.
But that time was up. I saw it coming, and I was ready for it. I knew that at some point in the next few weeks, it would be time to go back to Sunday morning as I’ve known it my entire life. So that morning, when God said “Go”, I went.
Have you ever taken time to retreat with God? How did it change your relationship with Him?