I recently spent a week at the Crystal Crane Hot Springs, near Burns on my annual solitude retreat. The most interesting aspect of spending an entire week alone with God is how casual the interaction is. Drinking coffee, soaking in the hot springs, listening to the owls hoot at sunset, driving in the Steens all are activities that were part of the itinerary of our week together. I find that there is a Sacred Rhythm to the pace of it all and without fail, the Holy Spirit uses the seemingly random events to lovingly point out areas that require attention in my soul.
Mid week I took a leisurely drive through the Steens Mountains. The road wanders through drastic foliage changes as it climbs up to the 10,000 foot summit. The scenery is spectacular! I saw the occasional fellow explorer, but for the most part I was alone throughout my journey. When I reached the East Rim Lookout, I came to a fork in the road that wasn't clearly marked. There happened to be an couple that was stopped at the same point. I approached them to ask if they knew which road to take to continue on the loop. The man gave me directions that were confusing to me and seemed to be directing me back the way I came. So I asked again...he proceeded to give me the same answer, only more directive. I asked a third time, and...he gave me the same words, only now was speaking as if I was a child who needed a scolding. At that point I became angry, made a snide remark, headed back to my vehicle, and sped off down the hill, hoping it was in the right direction.
As I drove, my anger began to dissipate and I was able to ask for Holy Spirit’s input. "Why am I so angry, God?" Why did I let that guy get to me so badly?" As the answer came through an inner dialogue, over the course of the next few miles, I heard God’s “still small voice” point to various hurts I’d experienced over the years that had been in the same vein. I also came to realize it was a wound that could only be healed through repentance and forgiveness. Further, the healing wasn’t about other people changing, but about me, my response, and God wanting to release me from the need to be reactive in anger.
After finishing my conversation and taking the steps outlined, I stopped at a trailhead where I was able to create a cairn as an alter memorializing God’s work. I then gathered a rock to take with me along with a sprig of sage. These symbols are now on the dash of my vehicle as a reminder of the work done in my heart that day.
The forming of a soul is such an intangible concept at times, and I tend to work way harder at it than I suspect is necessary. However, as I learn to just pay attention in the day to day situations that arise in my world, with the same intensity as I do when I’m on my annual retreat, I think it will become easier.
Paul tells us in Philippians 2:13 (NLT)
"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him."
The invitation I sensed God extending to me this year is to "Walk In The Spirit". I think I am slowly, but surely realizing this is nothing more than a continuous dialogue with God and staying centered in that. In Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly states, “Deep within us all there is an amazing sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a Speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return.” My approach is simple when I sense I am not in step with the cadence of the Holy Spirit, I don’t beat myself up, but just step back into the rhythm. No matter how many times a day I have to repeat the process. And...to trust that God is doing the work as promised.