The eyes of all look to you,
And you give them their food at the proper time.
~David, Psalm 145:15
As I noted in an earlier post, during the week of my retreat, I used the book Wilderness Time by Emilie Griffin as a guide. At the suggestion of the author, I created some very basic guidelines for the retreat such as keeping a tidy space, observing regular meal times, and spending time out of doors. These were not rigid rules so much as they were parameters intended to create some sense of routine and continuity, allowing God to work inside that space in whatever way He saw fit; if I saw God leading in a direction outside this framework, I was to follow.
One of the ways I kept to the suggested regularity throughout the retreat was to begin each morning by meditating on a specific Psalm (more about this in an upcoming post). After meditating on and praying through the Psalm, I would go for a walk and speak with God. The first day, I chose one of my favorite wild trails to walk on, just a short distance from my apartment. I prayed for eyes to see and ears to hear whatever it was God wanted me to take in.
It was cool and damp that morning as I went for my walk, and was in fact, still lightly sprinkling. I geared up with my favorite warm jacket, my gloves, and my camera to record what I saw. I felt my senses heighten and sharpen, eager to pay particular attention to whatever lay in my path.
As I walked the two or three blocks to the trailhead, a couple of things in particular caught my eye. In front of one of my neighbor’s homes there was a tire swing hanging off the stout branch of a tree in the front yard. I smiled as I recollected how many times I had pumped my legs back and forth as hard as I could on just such a swing, laughing with the exhilaration that came with rushing to a height, hastening back down, feeling the air rush past and cool my skin. It reminded me of being a child; feeling freedom and laughter, being unburdened by worries.
A few houses down on the same side, I saw a beautiful front yard that seemed to have no design to the planting. It was wild and untamed. There were red and peach- colored tulips, broad-bladed grasses, dandelions, ivies, a blackberry bush, and tree branches both blooming and bare. If there had been a design, it was overtaken by the wild growth, yet I thought it lovelier than many thoughtfully designed and landscaped yards I had seen.
After I reached the trailhead and walked down that familiar and muddy path, I heard the spring song of the birds overhead. The cool, damp air may have pierced my own exposed skin, but it did not diminish the birdsong. For my entire walk, I was accompanied by a symphony of birds overhead. They flitted and darted from branch to branch, their snapping wings and joyful song lightening my heart and my step.
I returned from my walk to my apartment damp and muddy myself, knowing that these things had significance if I would see it. The tire swing pointed toward being childlike, the flowers and wild growth a reminder to seek beauty in unexpected places, and the birds … I could not immediately identify the significance. After pouring a cup of hot herbal tea and changing out of my muddy clothing, I reopened Wilderness Time to a guided meditation the author herself uses when leading a retreat. This is a portion of what I read:
“Give us the grace to be children in your presence. Teach us to be lilies who don’t have to work at being beautiful. Teach us to be unselfconscious like the birds who depend on you and give glory to you with every rush of wings and every shriek of praise.” (Griffin, p. 87)
Reading this paragraph was a revelation; I knew immediately that each of the things to which my attention was drawn had been drawn there by God Himself. The tire swing, telling me to be childlike. The wild and beautiful growth, reminding me that I don’t need to work hard to be beautiful in the eyes of Him who made me. The birdsong reminding me that the birds don’t toil and worry, but enjoy the provision of our heavenly Father, depending on Him utterly.
The images He provided me with spoke clearly: You are my child; be that child. You are beautiful in my sight; you need not strain and strive to be so. I will provide for your every need; depend on me.
These revelations shaped and changed the week ahead in ways I could not yet see. The Holy Spirit stirred inside me, and I did not need to question God’s immediate presence in this week. And this was only the beginning of the blessings of the retreat days set aside.
Part 3: Four Stops Through the Psalms