Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sitting at His Feet

Yesterday, I tried an eight-hour personal retreat, intended as a day in solitude and silence amid the beauties of Creation, a day of making space to better hear God's voice. It wasn't entirely what I hoped for--largely because in this urban area, the most convenient parts of the great outdoors weren't all that solitary or silent on a clear blue Saturday!

One thing that did get through is that I may never find the "perfect" retreat setting by my definition: absolutely cloudless weather; all-day temperatures just right for outdoor rest or activity; a handy free lunch; and an absolute guarantee that no other human will intrude even on my field of vision. After spending the first hour mentally accusing God of evidently not wanting my undivided attention after all, I wound up feeling like the fool of Proverbs 19:3: "A man's own folly ruins his life, but his heart rages against the Lord" (NIV). In other words, don't tell God that if He wants your worship, He had better make it easy, pleasant, and fun, because you find worship impossible under any other circumstances. Tell that to the saints who praised (and still praise) God from crowded dungeons.

Not that, as far as possible, we shouldn't regularly seek out quiet corners to pray and recharge our spiritual batteries. Jesus's own example (e.g., Luke 5:16) shows that we should. But perhaps those of us who tend toward overplanning miss a key point--our first priority has to be God Himself. Silence, solitude, prayer, worship--all the great spiritual disciplines--are mere means to knowing Him better; and if we pay too much attention to getting the means "right," we risk making them ends as well, forgetting Who we were supposed to be paying attention to. Then we complain that the disciplines don't do anything for us. Serves us right if they don't.

Another frequently missed point is that the "one needed thing" of Luke 10:38-42 isn't complete abstinence from hustle and bustle. It's listening to our Lord's voice. If we make that our first priority, God Himself will show us our perfect retreat setting.

Perfect by His definition.

The options in life are many;
The pressures of life are great;
But one thing alone is needed--
We must learn to sit and wait.

The voices of life are endless,
The callings a thousand odd;
But one Voice alone worth hearing--
Give ear to the Word of God.

The choices of life seem crushing,
The needs to be met insane;
But Christ knows the tasks worth doing--
And time lost in prayer is gain.

The yoke of our Lord is easy;
His burden is always light--
So if yours is heavy to carry,
Guess who cinched the straps so tight?

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