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About a month ago God performed a

“celebrity smack-down” on me. He was the celebrity, I was the smack-ee. My

overlapping responsibilities as editor of GROUP and creator of GROUP Magazine

Live (

face="arial, helvetica, sans-serif">www.group.com/reignite

face="arial, helvetica, sans-serif">), combined with some chronic health

problems in my family, had sucked the life out of me. My tank was empty—I knew

it, but like a disbelieving driver who’s sure there’s a gas station just over

the next hill, I kept rocking back and forth in the driver’s seat, oodging

myself a little farther.

That’s when God vaulted off the ring stanchions

and did a flying belly flop on me.

It was a Saturday morning. My wife was

sick in bed and my two little girls were anxiously pleading for me to get my act

together so we wouldn’t be late for a family birthday party. They were already

strapped into the car waiting in the garage. I was angry. Angry that everything

was on my shoulders…again. Angry that my wife was sick— but she couldn’t help

that, I told myself. Angry at my kids for wanting to be at their birthday party

on time—but they couldn’t help that, I told myself. So ultimately I was angry at

myself, for having an empty tank when I was trying to merge onto my Saturday

highway.

In my angry, impatient rush I hurried through the door into our

garage but missed that last step. I did one of those 90-degree ankle-buckling

falls with a hot latte in one hand and my laptop slung over my other shoulder.

It hurt. It really, really, really hurt. It hurt so bad that I just let that

scream rip from my lungs—the loudest bellow of my life. I pounded the concrete

garage floor and let the dam burst that was holding back all my pain,

frustration, and anger. Inside the car, my kids watched all of it wide-eyed,

like raccoons caught in the flashlight’s glare. The garage functioned like an

amplifier, making my screams even louder. That’s when the neighbors showed

up—the new neighbors that I hadn’t even met yet. They’d heard my screams and

rushed over to see me pounding the floor in a pool of latte.

“What

happened?” they cried.

Right about then my disheveled wife rushed into

the garage in her robe and asked the same question. Then she looked up and saw

our new neighbors standing there. “Hi, I’m Bev,” she said, pulling her robe a

little tighter around her. Through my clenched teeth I spit out an inaudible

indictment—“What a perfect way for the new neighbors to meet us.”

Well,

it turns out our neighbors were parents of teenagers, and thus well-practiced at

entering into a crisis. They quickly discovered our girls were supposed to be at

a birthday party, and offered to take them to the party so they wouldn’t miss

it. My wife gave them directions while I dragged myself into the house and

hobbled to a chair so I could elevate my grapefruit ankle. My wife, who’d stayed

away from me that morning because of my aforementioned grousy behavior, got some

ice for my ankle, gave me a tender squeeze, and left me alone.

In the

silence I ran back through all of the things that had gone wrong that morning,

like a prosecutor laying out the charges before the defendant. In the dock that

morning was God. In the middle of my dissertation God opened His mouth and spoke

to me.

“Rick, I pull the trigger.”

He didn’t have to say it

twice—I knew exactly what He meant. He was trying to say His love is fierce and

passionate and unafraid to stop me in my tracks before I do any further damage.

I’m not saying He tripped me on those garage stairs, but I am saying He put me

in the adult version of timeout. And in the silence, my tears came. And through

the tears I heard Him speak again—“Come away with me, Rick.”

And so I

did. I remembered a mountain monastery I’d visited 20 years ago, when I was just

out of college. They had private accommodations for personal retreats, and it

was a Trappist monastery so the monks “kept the silence” for most of the day. I

emailed them to see if I could reserve one of their little stone “hermitages”—a

private cottage with a little kitchen, a bathroom, and a bed. The “guestmaster”

at the monastery told me they were booked up for months, except for two nights

during the only week I could get away.

So I packed up a few clothes, a

couple of books, my Bible, and a cooler with food and drove three hours to the

monastery. I spent the next three days in virtual silence sitting at Jesus’

feet—just like Mary in that Mary-and-Martha story. But in my case Jesus was like

a fire hydrant. It had been so long since I’d given Him more than an hour or so

to tell me what was on His mind that He had a lot to say. It was rich,

oh-so-rich. I found myself again in His goodness, in His surprising, wild,

attractive presence. I came away to the quiet with Him, like a mid-life couple

on a second honeymoon. I can still smell the stillness…the fragrance of His

presence and the sweet sound of His voice.

And so I tell my story with

the hope that it overlaps with your story somehow and beckons you off your own

private highway and onto the offramp that leads to…the quiet. Nothing will

recalibrate you better than a good, long stretch of quiet. Better to choose it

before He chooses it for you—because He’ll pull the trigger on you, too. God

loves like nobody’s business—He’s the best lover you’ll ever meet.

“For

I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither

the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor

anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God

that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-40).

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