In just over four weeks’ time we have a glorious spiritual retreat. A place of recharging our souls and each other. A place much hotter than here. A place to relax. To slow down. A place to have fun. A place with new people. A place we have never been before. A place without church or bible.
And without those two bits we name that “holiday”. The unspoken teaching is that a holiday is of the flesh and indulgence (and a retreat is of the spirit and restoration).
I see no difference.
I wonder why the unspoken knowing is that God cannot (really) be found in a bar or a restaurant. Nor (really) found on a beach by the sea. Nor (really) in the laughter and bawdy banter around a table. Not really in the quiet contemplation of a distant horizon … a small working boat … a passing beach seller … small birds scratching for a crumb … children playing in the surf … in the buzz and bustle of having a loving and joyous fun time.
Why do we choose retreat with God – but holiday without?
I have always found holidays as seeing a God who is everywhere. A God who is Love everywhere. A God who delights not just in “living in the bible” of a believer – but who lives in each. A God who scents the daily living of all – everywhere. A God of no particular name – of no particular sacred text – nor defined by a certain creed – not even worshiped as we believe we should and must: in a certain way, at a certain time, and with those who are like-minded. A God of no particular name who is free of all that stuff we need to “need”.
“Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” “ John 15:9-11
Isn’t love joy and joy love? Isn’t love free and joy freeing?
The love and joy found in bawdy banter on a beach far from here. The love and joy in the quiet reflection of a distant horizon. Of the hurly-burly of checking-in and checking-out. Of a God who needs no name as we must name God. A God who needs no formality as we need formality. A God who needs no obedience as we define obedience. A God of love and joy who needs nothing as we need to pick our “needs”.
A God who delights in love and joy in all – everywhere.
I find that I can be as close to my God on a beach far from home as in the bible and formal prayer. I can be closer to God with a drink in my hand and a bawdy joke shared than sitting in a church feeling all alone. I can be closer to my God there as anywhere else. And I wonder …
If I cannot find my God there what does that say (not) about his “commandments” …
But about my need of his “commandments”?