A few weeks ago, I drove four hours to the seaside community in North Carolina where H was a pastor, for a private writing retreat at a friend’s beach house. As I entered the front door of the three-story stilted house with the winding staircase, the smell of the sea greeted me like a voyageur returning home after a long journey. I stood at the picture window, watching swells break on shore, spread out a foamy blanket and pull back out into the depths.
Quiet about my pilgrimage, I longed to reconnect with several people while visiting but the goal was large word counts. I remained steadfast and faithful to the muse.
On Sunday, during my lengthy drive to church, I asked God to reveal who he wanted me to spend time with on Sabbath. Someone I haven’t seen in months, perhaps years, came quickly to the forefront.
As I walked along the sidewalk toward the church entrance, I was stopped in my tracks by people flinging themselves out of side doors from a room walled with windows upon spotting me at first glance. I’m not sure I can explain what being loved like that does to my heart.
Late to worship, I quietly tiptoed into the sanctuary and took the nearest empty seat. Immediately, a hand squeezed my shoulder from behind my back. When I turned around, I wasn’t surprised to see that the hand belonged to the woman that came to my mind while driving. “It is so good to see you,” she whispered close to my face.
Afterward, willingly swarmed by more smiling faces, she left before I could ask her out to lunch. I thought perhaps that was it, God was alerting me that we would reconnect briefly.
On my way back to the beach house, I stopped at Panera for the internet. When I walked in the front door, she was seated with a mutual friend, finishing lunch.
“I was going to ask you to lunch but you were busy talking to people,” she remarked. I smiled and told her I had the same intention.
Quickly removing empty soup bowls and crumpled napkins off the table, they insisted we move to a larger table and talk. After an hour my friend admitted she almost stayed home from church but felt prompted to push herself past comfortable. “I almost missed out on this encouraging conversation,” she admitted.
I forgot about the internet.
As I read the Gospel of Mark for the #LentChallenge this week, I’m struck by how many times Jesus performs miracles and then asks people to keep it quiet. “Don’t tell anyone,” he charges the crowds who witness the healing of the deaf man with the speech impediment. (7:36)
He enters a house and doesn’t want anyone to know about it (7:24) and then casts demons out of a woman. The disciples are charged to refrain from speaking about his transfiguration, yet he instructs the man freed from the habitation of demons into a herd of pigs, “Go and tell your family” (5:19).
In a world searching for purpose by proclaiming every thought, word and deed on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, I remember that Jesus is discriminating about how he communicates.
When I like to know outcomes and insist on putting the personality of Jesus within the parameters of my experience, I remember that the way of faith isn’t a formula to follow but an intimate relationship of meaningful conversation.
There is a reason why he permits sharing your heart sometimes and to quietly ponder the next. Why he says, “Wisdom is justified by her deeds,” not justified by the approval of others. (Matthew 11:19)
Join us today for Redemptions Beauty Book Club where we’ll be talking about the scriptures that stand out for each of us as we read the New Testament together for the#LentChallenge with Margaret Feinberg.