God Shows Up
I’ll spare you the hilarious picture of me arriving for my recent four-day retreat at SSJE with a duffel bag packed with six shirts, three pair of pants, three sweaters, multiple pairs of shoes, and a knapsack stuffed with a computer, two theology books, a thick volume of poetry and a journal. (I was confident they’d have a Bible and BCP.) Did I think that I would change my clothes for each Office?
Or spend all four days reading? Had I planned on writing some great sequel to the Dark Night of the Soul?
I’ll spare you the details of the gyrations of my mind – you know, the wildly spinning thoughts that usually come with too much coffee, but in this case, are induced by the closing off of usual stimuli – people, books, music, TV, internet, work – and the introduction of something novel: silence, simplicity, space to breathe.
I’ll spare you these details because if you’ve ever been on retreat, you might understand. And if you think that someday you might want to go on retreat, I wouldn’t want to frighten you off with my clumsy attempts at the spiritual life that feel, most days, more like wet corduroy chafing between my chubby thighs than golden silk, skimming over a lithe body.
God shows up. In fact, God – it seems – is there the whole while. And God is about as beautiful and sly as a chameleon that changes color in order to be camouflaged.
God is in the gentle gaze and smile of recognition from an old monk who, years ago, heard your first confession (and offered absolution, than God).
God is in the firm and funny words of the preacher who reminds us of the words of the desert father who said, “Your cell will teach you everything. Now go there and shut up.”
God is in the silence of the room and in the rushing traffic bearing commuters on Memorial Drive – the world moves so quickly!
God is in the glint of the early morning sun on the Charles and in the taut muscles of the crew team, pulling their oars in shells that glide across the water. They make it look so easy.
God is in the fragrant and generous bowls of couscous and the miso soup and the vegetable curry and in the date nut bread spread thickly with real butter.
And God is in the worship – perfumed with incense, strung together with the liquid chants of ancient times, populated by the faithful, and a delight for the eye in stained glass, swirls of marble and soft brown wooden stalls. Yes, God’s in the Communion Bread and the Cup, too. But we already knew that.
So, I’ll spare you the details, but assure you: God is alive and well in Cambridge, Massachusetts.