When God Sneaks Up on You

Today did not go as planned.

It was intended to be a solitude / prayer / reflection kind of day – the kind of day that would have made a Thomas Merton proud.

Danelle and I do these together (in fact we would like to do it with other couples if any are up for it) but the intent has always been that we create quiet space to listen to God and settle the noise that fills our heads and hearts.

Today we dropped the kids at mum and dad’s and then headed down to Trigg Beach hoping to do the quiet/solitude/pray thing somewhere along the coast.

It was very cold and wet so we ended up having a coffee at the Trigg Island Café. We both had stuff to put on the table and talk thru – I had been given a prophetic word that I wanted to talk with Danelle about and she had some stuff too that needed us to talk seriously. That took us thru to about midday. It was a valuable time, away from kids to really talk thru some significant stuff and we made a great connection there. I sensed God was with us and leading us as we spoke.

When it came time to leave it was still raining.

Where to now? What do you do on a ‘retreat’ if you can’t go anywhere that is conducive to prayer, especially when you are both ‘natural environment’ type of people?

This is where it gets very ‘unspiritual’ and Thomas would be most disappointed with me… Danelle suggested we head home and spend the day in bed snoozing and reading and” well anyway… I reckoned it was too far to drive. Her other suggestion was Harbour-town (shopping) or Koorong to look for books.

It felt kinda weird to agree to spend some of our retreat day shopping, but we went. It was actually nice just to be together with no agenda at all and no kids to attend to. Its interesting what happens in those moments that just doesn’t seem to happen in the hustle of ordinary life. We stayed at Harbour-town for about 45 minutes – probably 35 longer than I normally shop for and left with a pair of shoes for Sam.

From there we stopped in at Mega-mart – looking for a new DVD player – we have a relic from the 80’s (?) given to us by a friend that is so noisy we can no longer hear the DVD’s play! From there it was on to Koorong.

I always dread Koorong because you tend to bump into Christian ‘acquaintances’ you haven’t seen for years – people with whom you have nothing to talk about, yet you feel obliged to talk to. I walk around with my head down. I ought to wear a sign ‘no, I don’t want to talk to you either – so let’s just ignore each other’.

But” sure enough within 30 seconds it had happened – I was standing looking at books with a woman I went to church with 25 years ago” the good thing was that I think she was as happy to bypass me as I was her. We said ‘g’day’ and kept looking at books, then wandered off with nothing more said. Nice.

I quickly grabbed five books and retreated to the café section to do some rapid skimming. (How much can I read without buying?!) Danelle was leisurely cruising the kids and music section gradually acquiring a swag of stuff.

I ordered a coffee and a rather huge slab of chocolate cake and began reading haphazardly, quickly losing interest. I can’t even remember the books now, but as I was sitting there I remembered a book I had been wanting to read for ages now – Mike Yaconelli’s Messy Spirituality. I have always been a huge Yaconelli fan but just have never bought this book.

Fortunately it was on the shelf, so I grabbed it and settled in to read while Danelle continued to scour the shelves. Now this is where my day converged and God snuck up on me in quite a powerful way.

The basic thesis of Yaconelli’s book is that most of us are really pretty lame when it comes to being ‘spiritual’. We find it hard to pray once a week let alone once a day, but in developing an awareness of God in the fabric of life we actually grow a spirituality that may not be conventional but that is messy and real and maybe just as spiritual if not more spiritual than the ideal we hold up.

The day had been anything but ‘spiritual’ in the classical sense, but as I sat there for an hour or so and read Yaconelli I was powerfully aware of God speaking to me – at times frighteningly so. Yaconelli writes ‘competence is not a fruit of the spirit yet it seems that the church values it more highly than many other things’ (or words to that effect) This was the guts of a conversation earlier in the day – an issue I am working thru right now. He seemed to say a whole bunch of other things that felt much like God saying ‘just sit and listen for a bit Andrew’.

I did.

I was trying to read as much of the book as I could before leaving but I sensed God had more to say to me thru this simple, yet inspiring jumble of deeply spiritual and yet apparently unspiritual writings on what it means to follow Jesus. So I paid my $$$ and bought the book.

We bumped into some good friends – people we were glad to see – and then it was time to leave.

As we walked back to the car I was trying to describe to Danelle what I had experienced over the day. Somehow while we were shopping God had showed up and renewed some passion and love for him. How bout that?

Maybe spirituality has more to do with being intentionally present before God wherever we are than it does with a location or posture?

Either way it was as valuable as any other retreat day, but in a totally surprising way!

Maybe I could start a new stream of spirituality – finding God in the shops…

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