The most meaningful moments in life have not been those which I have seized. Rather, they have been moments that have seized me. Or, moments that have swallowed me whole.
Consider, for example, the months of October and November in 2007. Melissa’s last round of chemotherapy had come and gone. Though I was maintaining my duties as husband, father, friend and pastor, my interior life was languishing; it had been for some time. Ironically, Melissa’s interior life was in full bloom. Lymphoma proved to be fertile soil in which her faith would deeply root.
One muggy October afternoon in the midst of lingering confusion, fatigue and doubt I sought the advice of a counselor. It took him all of ten minutes to suggest that I immediately take somewhere between three weeks and three months away for personal renewal.
I chose three weeks. My church at the time, Westside Community in Apopka, Fl., graciously gave me the month of November. They also told me that they would allot more time as needed. I began my retreat in rest. A week in Silence and Solitude at one of my favorite spots, Lake Howard (a lake on family property in SC named after my father). The time spent on Lake Howard would offer a beautiful life affirming moment.
It was a cold November morning in 2007. I was concluding the first of three weeks, spent chiefly in silence and solitude. It had been a beautiful week. One morning I slipped from my bed and embarked upon a predawn walk. The temperature, cold. The air, bitter and foreboding.
My heart instinctively lifted my head toward the warmth of the rising sun. Then it happened: The moment that swallowed me whole. The sun settled upon and streamed through a frost tipped pine. I stood perfectly still, captured within a gently warming ray of sun.
It was a moment of awakening; an awakening to the presence of the Lord. His presence warming me in His love and grace. I had tasted the goodness of God. Indeed, as the Psalmist says, taste and see the Lord is good (Psalm 34). I had wandered into a sacred space.
God lovingly said, in that sun-soaked moment,
“Biz, you walked with and watched helplessly as Melissa suffered. You watched your children struggle to find their way without the strength of their mother; without the warmth of her smile. This journey has wounded you. It has weakened you! You doubt my goodness. You to doubt me. You to doubt you. You now wonder if you have the strength to love your wife, your children and your church. You wonder if you should give up on ministry; if you should give up on me.
“Still, here we are; together! The fact that you have chosen to be with me affirms a desire truer than doubt. The fact that I have chosen to be with you declares the delight I have in you and proclaims the hope I have for you.
“Today, I give you to this moment so that you might remember the touch of my warmth when the world about you is cold.”
It was as if I had been eaten alive! Consumed by God’s good grace. Swallowed by this moment birthed in the silence of solitude. A moment that would become a cocoon from which new life would burst. God was saying, “Yes, my son. I am with you. Take this journey with me. It is a journey further up and further in.“¹
Disrupting to Renew
¹Further up and further in is a phrase I have extracted from, Lewis, C. S. The Last Battle. New York: Scholastic, 1988. Print.