Fry on Friday—a few weekly paragraphs about where I’ve sensed God, how I’ve put my faith into practice. This week should be easy. I’m attending a spiritual retreat designed for ministers, pastors of churches in transition. This should produce enough material for several weekly columns.
I got nothing. I’m not merely bored; my spirit is rebelling. This morning’s daily devotion time began with the instructions, “Close your eyes and step into God’s presence.” A perfectly acceptable invitation. “Oh, HELL no!!” I responded. “I’m not going to enter God’s presence like the drive-thru at Starbuck’s, casually, instantly, and on my way as quickly as possible.” My eyes flew open and I looked around the circle. “Thank you, Jesus,” I breathed, “Everyone’s head remained bowed, so I hadn’t spoken my protest aloud.”
What’s wrong with me this week? Why am I resisting what I desperately need? I have to acknowledge: spiritual retreats don’t usually do it for me. Something about being in a room full of ministers acting religious makes me want to jump on the table and scream. Fortunately, that impulse has been restricted to my imagination. So far. But this is a long retreat.
God doesn’t seem to be in a panic about this. It appears that God is taking a little break from me and my spiritual life this week. My perfectly planned bonding opportunity hasn’t turned out like I’d hoped. God and I haven’t been up close and personal here, and the devotional prayer materials and small group sharing sessions serve to elevate the frustration. And yet…
I remember an image I came across recently. Entering God’s presence is like bird-watching. (I have to accept that statement as true. I’ve never been bird-watching in my life. Don’t intend to.) The bird-watcher goes into a grove of trees and waits. Not like the bored student waiting for class to end, or like waiting to renew the driver’s license at the D.M.V. Or with an attitude, like me at a spiritual retreat. A birder waits with spring-loaded readiness for a sudden moment that appears, packed with explosive meaning. I cannot make that moment happen; it may or may not meet my deadline.
But I can wait.