Retreat 4

Drawn into the Desert

Take a moment to slow down, settle in and breathe.

 

Sit for a few moments in silence.

 

What might it look like for you to enter mindfully into what God has for you in this retreat?

What would it look like to move from a consumer posture toward a reflective posture?

Ask God what His invitation might be for you in this time, then receive what He has for you as a gift.

The desert waits,

ready for those who come,

who come obedient to the Spirit’s leading;

or who are driven,

because they will not come any other way.

The desert waits,

ready to let us know who we are—

the place of self-discovery.

And while we fear, and rightly,

the loneliness and emptiness

and harshness,

we forget the angels,

whom we cannot see for our blindness,

but who come when God decides

that we need their help;

when we are ready

for what they can give us.

 

— Ruth Burgess, Bread of Tomorrow

A First Reflection

This retreat is offered by A Spacious Place​ team member Tracey Meeks.

 

Welcome to the wilderness! What images or words come to mind when you think of a wilderness or desert place? Perhaps images of a dry and barren land? Words like difficult and desolate?

 

Often when we speak of people going through times of loss, crisis, loneliness or hardship, we refer to it as “going through the wilderness”. Most often our response is to fear the wilderness or dread it or want to stay as far away from it as possible. And yet, throughout Scripture, the wilderness is a place of refuge, renewal and training.

 

In Hebrew, the word “wilderness” is “midbar," which comes from the root word “debar.”

 

Debar means “to speak.” The wilderness is the place where God speaks; it is the place where we hear His voice. ​

 

God used the midbar as a place to speak to Moses through a burning bush. He spoke to Elijah in a still, small voice in the midbar as well. There is something about the wilderness that opens us up to hear God’s voice.

 

What might it mean for us, then, to embrace the wilderness? How does it change your view of the wilderness to think of it as the place of God’s speaking and our hearing?

 

In the following video, we explore a practice that helps us listen more deeply to the Lord.

You may wish to pause for a moment, go for a walk and continue to ruminate upon what you are hearing from God. Or you may simply choose to journal about what you are hearing. Do not hurry past the gift God is giving you through His Word.

One of the beautiful things about God’s Word is that, depending on the season of life in which we find ourselves, a particular passage or verse may reach us in a new way.

 

The passage we just listened to from Hosea 2:14-16 was particularly meaningful to me when I entered a wilderness season. My husband of six years, Dave Meeks, died after battling a malignant brain tumor for three and a half years. My children were two and four years old at the time, and I was desperate for God to make Himself known and speak tenderly to me.

 

While I had known Jesus as my Lord and Master since I was 15 years old, I was quickly becoming aware of the vast difference between knowing Him as my Master and knowing Him as my Husband, as He calls Himself in Hosea.

 

So I began to ask the Lord to show me the difference.

 

What did true companionship with God look like? How could I experience with the Lord the things that a husband or spouse provides? Things like having someone to confide in, someone who was my champion and defender, someone who delighted in me and adored me?

 

The wilderness following Dave’s death felt lonely, heartbreaking and at times terrifying. As I began to offer my unfiltered self to God, however, I began to experience a shift in our relationship, the shift from God as Master to God as Husband. I began to learn what it felt like to let myself be loved, one of the crucial steps in transformation.

 

Also crucial to transformation, the things that I thought I knew​ about God were turning in to things that I experienced of Him. Things that I had wondered about and longed for most in my relationship with God became more real to me, sweeter to me than any other love I’d ever known.

"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."

—Isaiah 43:19

It was only in God that I would find unfailing love that truly satisfies.

 

The Hebrew word for unfailing love in Scripture is “hesed” and is often translated as “lovingkindness” or “unfailing love.” But those phrases fall short of capturing the full meaning. In fact, some scholars refer to it as the undefinable word, because it is so beyond us. So instead, throughout the Scriptures we have pictures or accounts or stories of what hesed love looks like in action, lived out, with the ultimate example being Jesus.

 

One of my favorite descriptions of hesed comes from the Jesus Storybook Bible where it says it’s a “never stopping, never giving up, un-breaking, always and forever love.”

 

It may be that the solitude of the wilderness is necessary to open our ears and our hearts to the tenderness of God’s love, the things we’ve always longed to hear and know.

For Reflection and/or Journaling

Can you think of a time in your life when your “personal wilderness” led you to a deeper awareness or experience of God’s love for you?

 

What do you recall of that time?

What did your experience of God’s love look like?

How were you permanently changed?

In the passage from Hosea, the Valley of Trouble becomes the Door of Hope. This implies that the wilderness itself is transformed, even though we are still in it. The transformation of our relationship with God has an impact on how we view the world around us and perhaps the world we co-create around us for others. What has been your experience of this during this current season?

Emilie Griffin describes the wilderness as “the country of God’s affections.”

 

What might it mean for us then, to embrace the wilderness?

What invitation from God did you hear in Lectio today?

What would it look like to respond fully to that invitation this next week?

To look further into the practice of Lectio Divina, you may want to read: Meeting God in Scripture, by Jan Johnson. An article that explores the deep listening that happens in the desert can be found here: Retreat: A Time to Listen to Our Groans, by Trevor Hudson

An Invitation

For the next few days, continue to listen and ponder the word or phrase received through Lectio Divina. You might write it on an index card and refer to it throughout the day or week. Or you might choose an image, picture or symbol that you can carry to remind you of your word or phrase. Find a way to treasure the gift that God has given you, and watch for ways in which He continues to speak.

Questions for Reflection and/or Journaling ​

Before you begin engaging with words, take time to continue resting in the warm welcome of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Be reminded that God sees you as you are and welcomes you as His deeply-loved child. Words are not needed, but if it is helpful, you might simply say, “Lord, here I am.” ​

 

The questions below are offered to help facilitate our inner conversation with the Father. In that matter, however, we always defer to the Spirit’s leading. Notice which questions you are drawn to, and move towards them. As best you can, engage with the questions without judging yourself or raking yourself over any coals. Simply notice and name what stirs within you. Be mindful that you are sitting beneath the kind and compassionate gaze of our loving God.

 

Return to the words of Jesus from Matthew 6:5-8. He is offering us a soft cloth to polish the mirror of our prayer experience so that it might more accurately reflect the reality of who God is. What does your current experience of prayer reveal about your most deeply-held beliefs about God? Take some time to linger with this question. ​

 

Bring those beliefs to the Father. Hold them up in the light of His love. Ask Him for the grace to let go of whatever does not accurately reflect His image. Ask Him to begin to reveal to you the deeper reality of who He is. Have confidence that this is a prayer our Father is glad to respond to, although His response may be gentle and gradual, unfolding over time.

 

 

An Invitation

We invite you to take a few moments each day to enter into your inner room with God, take a few deep breaths and sit with Him in silence. If you need words, you might simply say, “Lord, Here I am.” Be assured: “He will rise up to show you compassion,” (Isaiah 30:18).

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