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 (www.group.com/reignite), 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
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.
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.”
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.
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
“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.
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).