There is a stack of brochures in the little room I now type in. I keep staring over at them, re-reading their invitation to know more about you. If you would like to be informed of upcoming events . . .
I reach over and turn the plastic holder to face the wall. I can’t keep reading that same brochure over and over again.
It’s easy to think when you make space for God that things will take a truly spiritual turn. Sometimes I suppose that’s the case. But mostly, it’s still just me in an empty room with a stack of brochures I’m trying not to read.
You know things are dire when you turn to retreat center brochures to avoid facing what’s really going on in your soul.
It’s a good thing this place has no TV.
“I’ve often done all I know to do to create space for God. I’ve spent time in prayer I thought was contemplative, I’ve said no to lesser desires to make room for rich fulfillment, I’ve knelt before God with the bread and wine . . . and for all my effort, I’ve felt only increased emptiness. Frustration. Silence. I created space for God and He didn’t fill it.
Or did He, in ways I failed to recognize because I was expecting something else? Or didn’t He, because I was arrogantly working hard, thinking He would be impressed and compelled to show up?”
– Dr. Larry Crabb, Shattered Dreams
Perhaps I have been arrogant.
I wanted to take a week, become quiet on purpose, and have God show up in a way I could not only understand but also explain and, if I’m honest, maybe even control.
I waited for a God I could manage. He reveals himself maddeningly unmanageable.
He kills my linear god. Again.
And I realize how much I hate the concept of God “showing up” anyway. As if there is a place where he isn’t and for reasons beyond my understanding, he decides to finally show up there.
God is I AM. He doesn’t show up, HE IS.
Silence and stillness are of great value, but only to the degree that I bring them with me as I enter into relationship. Empty rooms don’t give me much opportunity to love.
He may reveal Himself to me in the stillness and the hush, or he may not. Either way, I have to come out, rub shoulders with messy people and, in so doing, discover my own hidden mess is worse than I thought.
But in that rhythm of relating, if I am in touch with the deepest part of my soul that longs for nothing more than to reveal God, then that messy relating takes a slight turn, away from despair towards glad hope. Not the kind that comes from visible me, but the kind that pours out of Invisible God.
Home. I’ve been back for three days now, tucked into the walls of our house and the arms of family. Today represents a re-entering – a facing of email, of schedules, of life. This does not overwhelm me. Hushing has done its work.
Over time I expect to share more with you about my week away. For now, here are four small thoughts I can put into words:
Getting quiet reminds me that my sin is worse than I thought.
Grief, despair, and lament have a more important place in the life of believers than I once understood.
Broken dreams may sometimes be more useful than whole ones.
His provision of hope is better than I ever imagined.