I really debated on writing this post. Those most intimate of place between my soul and my Creator are too often converted in my mind into sermon, blog, or conversational thoughts. I tend to be quite promiscuous with the details of my relating to God.
Yes, for many, it is helpful, valuable, and “authentic” to be let in to the inner sanctum of one’s spiritual processing. But it comes at great cost to my own vibrancy. I recall a critique I heard once of the great mystic monk Thomas Merton that he “never had an unpublished thought or experience”.
I can relate.
So what am I talking about? When you read this, I will be on a bus from Holland, Michigan to Kalamazoo. A monk will meet me there and will take me to St Gregory’s Abbey in Three Rivers for a week-long silent retreat where I will disconnect from all electronics and means of communication. I won’t read anything but prayer books, poetry, and my Bible. No phone, email, texting, kindle, news, podcasts, or anything.
So why do I write this post? Well the “spiritual” reason is to ask for prayer. I have no idea how I will relate to this time or what kind of experience it will be. I could have a nervous breakdown; it could be entirely anti-climactic. The mundane “secular” reason is so people don’t get frustrated when I don’t reply to their texts, emails, and phone calls.
I suppose it’s also to say something else: I’m scared. I have to do something extreme like this because half-measures don’t do it for me. My inner busyness and lack of discipline always seems to lay waste to my best laid plans. I come up with brilliant methods and systems and structures for growing my soul and communing with my God, but I can always find a way to mess it up.
And so I’m doing this “extreme” of a measure not because I am so strong, but because I am so weak. Not because I am brave, but because my fear paralyzes me daily. I need to cut myself off so completely that even my worst impulses can’t find something to use to distract itself and stuff down its most needed emotional processes.
In the season in which I find myself, I need space and time to mourn, grieve, commune, and reconnect with myself and my God. I’ve needed to do this for a couple of months now and keep shoving the swelling emotions and pain back into my depths. I need this time to feel and to be.
I may talk about it some upon my return, but honestly, I hope I don’t. There are some spaces that need to be reserved for our souls and God to honestly relate to one another. Our God is a personal God, and though he connects to us as a people and not simply a collection of individuals, there are profoundly intimate spaces which he reserves for each of us–and only us.
If you grew up under Christian preaching, you may have heard now and then that almost every admonishment to Christians is a plural “y’all”, not a singular “you”. And this is true. but there area few astonishing places where God relates to us as individuals. Most beautifully, to me, is Revelation 2:17:
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
Each one of us has a name that is know only between God and our souls. At the end of everything it will be made known. Naming is a sign of care, possession, and service. This is how our God moves towards us. And this is the closeness I hope to experience this next week.
So please pray for me, wish me luck, and ponder your own communion with our Triune God. May we all find those places we can share with God and no other. IN the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.