Saturday, September 10, 2011
Into the Desert, Into the Night
So, I get to preside over Lynanne McGever's marriage to Shawn Gallagher. Lynanne was in the youth group at my first church, Dunaway United Methodist. Her family's roots in that church are deep--mom, aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins... going all the way back to the first settlers who came with Daniel Boone and built the first church building in 1815... I was very happy to see her and her family again and to be able to be a part of the wedding. I also had a great time just looking around. We got to the church in June 2000. I looked at the little parsonage! How interesting that we were so happy there, in such a small house. We always want bigger and more... The little church is simply one of the most beautiful you will ever see... a small white building on the hill surrounded by trees. I suppose there is always something that gets me there. When I came back for Stephen Horton's wedding. I was able to pick a flower from the clematis we planted. This time, I saw some zinnias that grew volunteer from a patch we planted in a bed that we had dumped all our compost into... they grew to almost 5 ft tall! And then, I came to the place that God apparently appointed for me to reflect on, a picnic table under a pavilion behind the church. Seems plain enough, but... I used to sit there each morning and read. I was doing what I now know to be lectio divina. I was reading no more than 5 verses from Mark's gospel, sometimes as little as 1 or 2 verses. Chewing over them again and again to almost memorize them. Then I would meditate and pray over the words. Takes a while to get through a Gospel that way, but it is worth it. Then, I also would read a selection from the ancient Church, perhaps the Desert Fathers, or Chrysostom and Tertullian. I was struck last night by how much of my spiritual formation came from this little church, and more specifically, from that little table under the pavilion. Those were such happy days! Almost carefree. Compared to what was coming when we left, they were carefree! I am impressed that those days of lectio divina, fasting, prayer, Psalm reading-- things that seemed simply prudent and good in themselves in the moment-- actually turned out to be a survival training. I was headed into the desert, into the dark night and there would be no way to survive it without the wisdom of pilgrims who had gone before. How many times did the Psalms provide a prayer when there was nothing I could say? How often did fasting destroy hopelessness? And how easy was it to find the Lord, to know His presence and His voice because I had waited on it when the tree was green? What if I had gone into the dry and weary land without knowing I could take a well with me? How clearly did the wisdom of the words appear: "physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things" (1 Timothy 4:8)?
Posted by Aaron Mansfield at 7:07 AM