The Urge To Stay

You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday’s gospel reading is here

A few years back, I attended an eight-day retreat for clergy. Oh, there was some work to do, but it was self-nurturing work – reflection on who I was and who I wanted to be, how I could best serve God and God’s people. There was wonderful and abundant food, interesting people, beautiful surroundings – and enough prayer and worship that I was able to connect with Jesus in a way that I hadn’t done for a long time. By mid-week I was wondering why I ever had to leave this place, ever had to go back to my day-to-day life and to-do list. Only when I was actually at the airport did my thoughts begin to turn back toward home. When we are in a sweet spot, the urge to remain is powerful.

Maybe Peter was having one of those moments, blown away by the spiritual revelations coming one after another on that mountain top. He had proof he’d backed the right horse. He was experiencing holiness and the holiest men he knew of. Why not try to fix it all in time and space, right here, right now? Or was he just babbling out of fright, as Mark suggests?

And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

We often associate holy encounters with heights. We talk about “spiritual highs” and “mountain-top experiences.” Such encounters usually come when we’ve stepped out of our quotidian patterns and gotten away geographically or temporally, on retreat or in an unstructured Sabbath day. Just as people in the throes of “in-love-ness” can’t conceive of their relationship ever becoming dull or predictable, It can be hard to believe, in a time of spiritual connection, that life will ever go back to normal, that our spiritual life might become hum-drum.

It doesn’t have to become “ordinary” – but it will never stay at the same pitch all the time, for God is always on the move, leading us forward. God is rarely in the last place we caught a glimpse. God can be found around the next corner, down the next road, in the next person we meet. In this life of faith we are invited to live in a delicate balance – present and aware to the fullness of joy around us in this moment, and always open to where the Spirit is leading us next.

When did you last experience an intense time of connection with God? What were the circumstances? How long did you feel connected? If it was less time than you’d like, you might ask the Spirit to help you stick around longer next time.

If you can’t remember a time when you felt close to God, are you holding yourself back? Why do you suppose there is this distance? Lack of trust? Disappointment? Unwillingness to put our weight in the unseen realm? We may feel God has gone away; in reality, it is we who come and go.

We know we’re growing spiritually when we are able to exult in those times when we feel the Spirit so close – and look forward to the next adventure God has for us. It may not be on a mountaintop, and it may not feel exhilarating – but if the Spirit of God is with us, it’s real and true and will move us deeper into Love.

© Kate Heichler, 2024. To receive Water Daily by email each morning, subscribe hereHere are the bible readings for Sunday. Water Daily is also a podcast – subscribe to it here on Apple, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform.

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