Pam and I didn’t get our annual Fall retreat this year as we seemed to be going in different directions with our job/ministry. But Pam did get a week in Johor Baru on a conference and I just got back from a company trip to Pangkor Island, which was pretty much as close to a retreat as you are likely to find. I had lots of quiet time to read and reflect and some beautiful scenery to drink into my soul.
We are making plans for our future, Pam and I, and that process needs time to absorb and listen to God’s still quiet voice confirming or deterring us from the course of action we are contemplating. At such times I always go back to my old favourites, Brother Lawrence, G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, who along with new favourites John Piper and Dietrich Bonhoffer stir up my soul to contemplate what I am doing in the light of eternity.
Used to be, when I was younger, I needed to find absolute quiet for this kind of thing. I would pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere and get as far away from people as I could. This weekend I found I could leave a conversation with friends and find a quiet shady spot under a tree and slip back into a conversation with God as if I had been talking to Him all day. I don’t mean to sound too casual about this or affect a level of spirituality I don’t possess. It is just that in some settings God seems to be particularly close and easy to talk to. This was one of those places.
I confess that I am perplexed by those who cannot see God in His creation. I was watching a young family walk along the beach, their child still uncertain on his feet in his dear little sun hat, but looking from a distance less like a child and more like a miniature man. How frightening and vast this world would be if God had created us full grown at that size. How impossible life would be if the plants and creatures of this world towered over us or hunted us for sport. In fact, how perfectly proportioned everything in this world is for the creatures that live in it. How pleasant it was to turn from the inspiring words of godly men to the inspiring sights of God’s world as I sat on the beach in the cool of the evening.
I may be, as others have been fond of pointing out, a naïve fool for believing in all that ‘God-stuff.’ I won’t say that I have been unaffected by such criticism. I am a sensitive fellow beneath this gruff exterior, and people can be so very unkind. But I will happily balance the years of scorn that I have endured for speaking up for my faith for five minutes of God’s small voice whispering to me through the waves that His goodness will prevail over all the misery and unkindness of the world. I still believe it will.