Recently I was away on a solitude retreat. Yes, you read that right. I packed a bag and for 48 hours I was alone. Well, not completely. I spoke with the cook, she let me know that I started at the wrong end of the food line. Who knew that not talking for an extended period of time (I was about 3 hours in) would affect your ability to walk through a buffet line? I Said “hi” when someone passed me on the trail ( I didn’t want to be rude) but other than that it was me, the lake and Jesus.
The first night was the most awkward. Not because of anyone but myself. It was only me, with me, afterall. After not spending time with only myself in years I had to become reacquainted with me again. I made it through that first silent night (too much?) and woke up to the sun dancing on the lake. I made a to do list and put “dance” on it after a bunch of other high and lofty goals like “hike” and “read”. After breakfast, where I did the buffet line the exact right way with noone to see me or pat me on the back, I headed off to hike.
The hike was beautiful. The trail took me through woods bordering the lake and over wetlands where I felt like the intruder. This was the domain of the birds, fish, chipmunks and turtles. They allowed me to pass by, but didn’t change their plans as they went about their mornings. My destination? A church I had seen across the lake the afternoon before when I had arrived. And an hour after I set off I reached it. A 150 year old church on an Island. I found a dock. The water was the perfect kind, the kind my Minnesota heart dreams about. So clear you could see right to the bottom. I kicked my shoes off and let me toes graze the cool water.
The hike had felt good and my body reminded me how strong it is. Lately, I haven’t been so kind to my body. Telling it all kinds of awful things about how it isn’t behaving like I think it should. My stomach is too squishy, my face too round, even my fingers have been getting the stink eye like they should be doing more finger exercises to trim up. But in that moment on the lake with the sun on my skin, the sweat drying from the cool breeze and my blood pumping just as it should I was pleased with me. I remembered that I loved the lake. And to hike in the woods. And old churches with stained glass windows. And the history behind it all. As I walked and sometimes jogged I was grateful for my strong legs and able hips. My stomach didn’t get in the way and my fingers did everything I asked of them. My face turned towards the sky.
I had some friends join me on my lake. Four loons made their way towards me and I was in awe of them. Their heads bobbing in and out of the water looking for a mid morning snack. Or maybe they slept in and it was breakfast they were after. No judgement here. I would have slept in but the silence pulled me out of bed. And the breakfast line, I wanted to get it right.
I pulled out my journal and opened my favorite black sharpie pen. I was feeling inspired, hearing the still quiet voice of the Spirit speak to the places that His creation were opening up in my soul. Words about stewardship and beauty and my role in it all. When suddenly the wind picked up. It blew my hair back away from my face, it blew so hard that I wondered if it would knock over the kombucha bottle I had brought with me. I closed my eyes and turned my face into it. I smiled. I thought of how God came to the prophet in the wind. I let it wash over me. Maybe this wind is God speaking just to me.
When I opened my eyes to see my loon friends again and write down my thoughts, to my right was a lone man on a boat with a sail. He was a ways away using the wind to move him across the lake. Then I thought that maybe my wind wasn’t only for me, or maybe it wasn’t for me at all, but maybe the wind was for him. To pick up his sail and move him across the water. I laughed to myself. Isn’t it funny how I like to think I am the center of everything that happens? Maybe the wind was from God right to me. Or maybe it was common grace, God moving over his creation and I got to experience it because I chose to be silent, still, expectant. I got to see God move because I stopped and put myself in a place where he already is so evident. He hadn’t done anything out the ordinary, I had.
This is so human of me. To think that God is the one who changes when I know very well that he is never-changing. That by me breaking my routine, he will come meet me in a special way, when every day he wants to meet me in the only way he knows how, magnificent, holy, awe-inspiring because this is who he is and he is true to who he is. It is I who don’t take the time, or clear my head space or remember where my identity is long enough to see Him washing over me, over us.
It is easier on the lake, I know. But the God of the lake and the loons, the one who washes his common grace over us in a cool wind or a summer rain, he is the same one who meets us on the couch or in the carpool line. He is with us in our meetings or while we shop for dinner. He is always the same, this we can count on and this I want to remember. I want to walk to the rhythms of his common grace that he washes over us every moment of every day. On the sunny quiet days on the lake or the dark days when we don’t know where the light will come from or if there is any left. He is still there, he is still for us. For meeting us and revealing himself to us. And he is for our changing, and our remembering too. To remember whose we are and the role we have been given. To know him and make him known. His creation reminds me of my simple role, to steward and show off my God’s beauty. To reflect him by living in awe of him and embracing who he created me to be and the purpose he created me for.