Many of us long for rest, as the author did while renovating an old house after her husband’s first deployment to Iraq. Yet a different hunger undergirded that desire: a hunger for wholeness.
No fast track exists to a closer walk with God, but the ancient Benedictine practice of Lectio Divina enhances and extends our times with our Creator. Allowing the Spirit to emphasize one word and ruminating on that word throughout the day empowers us to remain present for every moment, attentive to embrace all that God has for us.
As you take this journey with the author, you will become aware of those who have paved our way, and of those around us who need fresh courage. And you may even waken early one morning to discover the moon painted with a fresh hue.
In 2004, my Army chaplain husband Lance and I started life afresh after his fourteen-month deployment to Iraq. We had no idea the house we moved into was so hungry, and we thought we had plenty of time to rewire and refurbish the plumbing, replace old flooring, take out a couple of small walls, clean out grimy items left in closets and on shelves, and repaint before starting our jobs.
We failed to take into account the loneliness of this 125-year-old abode. Her parched bones slurped up coats and coats of primer and paint, her floorboards soaked in stain, oil, and varnish, yet cried out for more.
Getting the feel of a house takes time, first of all, to find one’s way. More time is required to sense the work of light as walls come down. The space brightens, opening her lungs to breathe deeply after years of being closed to the world.
Our society takes an elementary concept for granted—houses exist for people. Several families have lived in our house, most of them members of the original family who built it in 1873. Seven brothers and sisters grew up here, in probably a third of our space. A quick tour reveals idiosyncrasies that could only come from several additions over the years. In one case an entire staircase found a new home.
My husband’s small family never wanted for individual space, and although two parents and five children lived in my childhood home, our farmhouse boasted rooms galore. Human space perception differs culturally, tied to our families of origin and the communal norm. The physical area we own in this world extends into our yards or lack of them, and into our community—our town, our city, our country mile.
The first morning after moving in, even with piles of boxes gaping at me, I went for a walk to explore this little town. Early morning mist sharpened my observation powers. Alleys invited me—I choose alley-walking whenever possible. Dirt or gravel back ways offer more interesting sights and surfaces easier on one’s feet.
For a town of 1,200, this neighborhood boasts an abundance of lovely old houses with towering roofs. Not a sound reaches my ears. Even birds still sleep this morning, so it’s just the houses and me. In an hour or so, people sounds will fill the air, the sun’s warmth will dissipate the heavy atmospheric moisture layer, and our town’s day will officially begin.
But for now, it’s the quiet alleys and me: I attend to silent messages coming my way.
Light and Darkness
Sometimes I wonder about the shift from night to day. What exactly defines the difference between night and morning, darkness and light? The Apostle John encourages us to claim our status as God’s children and keep our footsteps out of the shadows.
Lectio Divina, an ancient Benedictine form of meditation, invites us deep into the word light. From the first chapter of John’s Gospel, what one word draws my attention today? After several readings, I wait. Light focuses my thoughts. What does the writer mean by light, and what action would God have me take concerning that meaning?
First, the context: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of the world” (NIV). I didn’t get very far. Four verses. That’s okay. Gone are the days of complicated, application-oriented Bible studies that tackled a whole chapter or more at a time in verse-by-verse analysis. Today I ruminate about light, and that’s enough.
Jesus’s life was the light of the world. How did that light affect His world? Not always met with gratitude and approval, He knew some would attempt to snuff out the flame and temporarily succeed. Yet that light has pervaded throughout the ages, down to this time in history. It’s the same light that beckoned us when we first heard the Good News. Joy behooves us to remember that first light.
Sometimes darkness closes in on even God’s most devout followers, as it did on our Lord. Saint John of the Cross, along with countless other ancient believers, experienced this. Saint John’s sole goal—to love God—seemingly led him away from the light. We can relate to his statement: “Desolation is a file, and the endurance of great darkness is preparation for great light.”
When it seems our Savior’s life-giving rays flee the scene of our everyday life, we suffer a tangible sense of loss that sneaks up subtly, silently, like a snake winding its way into a camper’s bedroll. Suddenly we find ourselves deep in shadow country, enveloped by a penetrating chill. Where has the light gone? What has happened to our relationship with God?
Walking in the early morning reveals gradations in atmospheric light. As a temperature change occurs with the sun’s disappearance at day’s end, so dawn’s light streaks from the east in a vast beam, drastically changing our perceptions. Still, the precise moment when darkness becomes light escapes an astute observer. With little ado, morning comes, and with it warmth and a new day.
The atmosphere gives clues, and meteorologists work to isolate sunrise and sunset, offering precise information in their weather broadcasts. “August 27, sunrise at 5:21, sunset at 8:36.”
Spiritually, I’ve attempted the same sort of analysis. But sometimes life moves so fast, it becomes difficult to pinpoint the appearance of light or stall the coming of darkness.
Perhaps analysis sits less well with our spiritual journeys than with meteorologists’ goals. In certain seasons of life, recollected light may be enough, and we simply need to keep walking.