A few hours of spiritual retreat are too rare for me. My “to do” list seems always to trump silence, reflection, and listening. But, thanks to two delightful visiting spiritual directors, I was privileged this week to join a few pastors and their spouses for a mini-retreat on the Intersect campus.
One hour of silence was directed for Bible meditation and journaling. I chose a place by the window because I prefer out of doors, even if only through a pane. I looked out on three visions. The first was our parking lot covered with about one-half inch of ice from a recent storm. It was rutted and frankly dangerous. My “to do” list shouted that something needed to be done about that. Visions of salt and sand and plows and scrapers danced in my supposed-to-be-silent brain. The second vision was a giant oak, glistening like an above-ground diamond mine. Behind it were evergreens, branches blinged and bowed.
The third vision was the Pair-a-Dice. That’s the bar next door. Intersect and the Bible Conference are creatively zoned with a bar on the south and a strip joint on the west. I’m sure the Pair-a-Dice holds cheer for the patrons. They are a loyal clientele and my rare neighborly visits demonstrate that it’s more about relationships than booze. But the Pair-a-Dice is something less than the paradise which captures my heart and prompts me to pray as taught, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.”
The assigned scripture began with instruction “Lift up your eyes.” The phrase grabbed me. As I fretted about ice on the parking lot I “heard” and in my case, it’s not audible, but it is discernible. “Lift up your eyes. Look at the ice on the trees, not the ice on the parking lot.” Behold beauty, not duty. Beauties adorn duties. Duties obscure beauties. Discipline your perspective. Lift up your eyes. The message was not to abandon duty. The parking lot was still slippery. Nor was it to elevate my vision to some kind of ethereal separation from earth. It was to live more joyfully in the ice, next door to the bar, by seeing the beauty in and certainly above it all. That perspective fosters love and joy rather than drudgery, judgment and dour religion.
It was a very good hour of silent refreshment. I want to live in that place perpetually and believe some day I will. Meanwhile, I’ve got to go salt and scrape and sand the parking lot. It should be fun. The trees are beautiful just now.