So, I did something strange… even for me. But before I tell you about it, I wanted us to have a little talk about faith. Or, more specifically, my faith. Sometimes, I feel a little odd sharing about my faith on my blog. It’s just such a personal thing. But I hope that you all know I do it simply because it would be impossible to have an entire website about my life without acknowledging my relationship with God. It just wouldn’t be honest. For years, I never mentioned my faith in my blog for fear that it would offend people or that people would think I was pushing religion on them. If you’ve been around here for any length of time, I hope that you know me enough to know that sharing my faith is never about passing judgment or converting people. It is simply sharing my faith because I can’t honestly represent my life on this blog if I don’t represent what is at the core of that life. So, please know that if you aren’t faithful or if your faith is in something different than mine, I still believe we probably have a lot more in common than we have different.
Having said that, I am now about to tell you something that is going to make you say, “Okay, you lost me there…”
For the past few weeks, I haven’t been able to hear God. Now, I’m not talking about a big booming voice that speaks to me. I’m not even really talking about a still small voice that speaks to me. I’m pretty sure God and I have agreed that he never speak to me in an actual voice because I’d probably wet my pants and go hide in a cave somewhere. We have a mutual understanding that he will speak to me either by touching my heart (which I prefer because I get warm fuzzies and who doesn’t like warm fuzzies?) or through messages. Lately, I have been getting lots of messages, but not any warm fuzzies. Which, as I said, are my favorite.
When I pray or worship lately, I don’t get that quiet peace that tells me he hears me. For a couple weeks, I kept thinking I needed to be doing more to hear it. Maybe God was mad at me and I needed change something I was doing? But, then, I don’t believe God holds grudges, so that didn’t make sense. Or, maybe God was busy somewhere else and had forgotten about me? But, then, I believe I am his whole world, so that didn’t make sense. Maybe I wasn’t praying hard enough or loud enough or long enough or deep enough or… and my list went on. But, then, I believe any prayer is pleasing to God.
Whatever was going on, one thing kept coming into my mind. I needed some intense time with God. More than just my morning devotional. More than my weekly small group. More than my daily, constant prayers which sometimes seem like I’m ordering through a fast food drive thru (Hi, God. I’ll take healthy children, a productive day, and a side of a well-rested husband. Thanks!). But when would I find time for more than those things?
Then, last week in my women’s small group, we read a story about Jesus and a sinful woman in John Chapter 2. There’s a lot you can take out of that seemingly little story, but the part we focused on was the woman worshipping Jesus. I’ll spare you the biblical breakdown and theological discussion we had (yawn, snore…), but the gist of it was that we all wanted to be able to worship like that woman – completely uninterrupted and unabashed. But, again the question came up, when would we find the time?
My husband is super understanding, but if I said to him, “Honey, I need you to watch the kids all day so I can go worship the Lord. I don’t know when I’ll be back, but I’ll text you when the worship thing is over.” I mean, it just wouldn’t be well received, mostly because it wouldn’t be understood. I think as women, we need a valid, tangible excuse to step away from our daily lives for a while. Even if it isn’t a faith-based issue, if I just need some time to myself, I feel like I need to clear a flight plan of events with Chris first to justify the time away. “I will be getting a pedicure and then lunch with a girlfriend. I may stop to fill my car up with gas, but I’ll let you know. Oh, I may also run into the grocery store to pick up a rotisserie chicken for dinner. I should be home by 2:30pm.” It would be weird for me to instead say, “Hey, I need some time. I’m going out. I don’t know what I’m going to do and I don’t know how long it will take.” Chris wouldn’t protest, but he would certainly raise some eyebrows.
But this was precisely what I decided I needed. I needed an entire day to myself to sit with God. I just felt it in my bones, as my Grandma says. So, last week, I took the kids to my mom’s house to spend the night and then the next morning, as soon as Chris left for work, I was ready for my own personal retreat. I had decided to spend the day as if I was on a pre-arranged women’s retreat at my church. I was going to give myself blocks of time, and I had even decided which activities I would be doing.
(Y’all, I promise I am not a crazy Bible lady. This is incredibly difficult for me to write because, if you know me in person, you know that this is just not like me. I don’t know many Bible verses off the top of my head. I don’t even know which order the books of the Bible are in. And I still mix up very important figures in the Bible. So, if you’re sitting there thinking, “Great, Katie’s jumped into the holy water and now I have to find another blog to read,” sit tight.)
I started out by putting on Chris Rice’s album, “Peace Like a River,” on my iPhone and sitting in the middle of my living room floor with headphones on. I am not very good at meditating because my mind runs wild, but I have found that music can help me focus. (Incidentally, that’s why I let kids listen to music in my class. I feel their pain.) So, I closed my eyes and listened to the old hymns wash over me. I didn’t plan on it, but I sat there through the entire album. It was over an hour I sat there by myself singing hymns in my living room. AND IT WAS LUXURIOUS! What a luxury to have uninterrupted worship time! To not have to worry if my kids were eating crayons in a corner somewhere, or if my husband was bored and checking his watch beside me, or what other people thought about my magnificently off-key voice.
If this had been a yoga retreat or a good workout, I would have been nice and warmed up. Now, it was time to get some work done. For the next hour, I sat in complete silence. Really. Silence.
For the past few weeks, there have been all kinds of messages I have felt God was sending me. Sermons that were staying with me and seemed somehow to be connected in theme, but I hadn’t been able to put my finger on what I was supposed to be learning yet. Conversations I had with friends and family that were related to the sermons somehow, but I hadn’t been able to figure out how yet. Snippets of my favorite hymns or Bible verses that had been stuck in my mind lately for no apparent reason. All these things seemed like pieces of a puzzle to me lately. They seemed to be related, but I hadn’t been able to figure out how they were all connected or what God had been trying to tell me. So, I spent an hour in complete silence, letting all those things flow until they fell into place and I finally understood.
By the time I had started grasping what I thought God was trying to show me, I was ready to head to my church. For days, I had been thinking, “If I could just get to the sanctuary…” I love a sanctuary. I love the quiet and the coolness. I love the stain glass windows and the ornate carvings of ancient Christian symbols. I feel God in church, but I feel closer to him in an empty sanctuary. So, I had made sure time in the sanctuary was part of my retreat. I grabbed my Bible, my journal, and my daily devotional book and headed to my church. I sat right up front for a little over an hour, praying and reading the Bible and sitting in stillness, mulling over what I thought I had learned that morning in my living room. When it felt right and peaceful, I put my headphones back in and I sang along with my favorite hymns right there in that empty sanctuary, all by myself.
By the time I headed to pick up the kids, I felt revived and at peace. True peace.
Sometimes, I think God is quiet because he is listening to us. But I wonder if, sometimes, God is quiet in order to draw us closer. I remember teaching the kids to walk. We would hold our arms out just out of their reach and make them walk towards us in order to catch them. I feel like maybe God has been teaching me to walk in the past few weeks. Like, maybe he was quiet so that I would have to really walk closer to him in my faith in order to hear him. And that’s what I have done this week. I’ve walked in my faith. I’m still not quite sure where I am walking or what exactly God is calling me to do, so pray for that, if you are so inclined. But I know that I have stretched out of my comfort zone.
I mean, I planned a woman’s retreat for myself. In my living room. And I sang in an empty sanctuary. I better be walking in my faith, or else I’m just bat shit crazy… Time will tell, I guess.
I share all of this not because my faith is the right faith, but because I think we should all be walking towards something. Stretching our arms out and really reaching for something. It feels awkward and uncomfortable, and I’m pretty much hoping all of my imaginary friends are spontaneously on vacation somewhere this week together…with no internet access. But however it is received, at least I’m doing it. At least I’m walking.