Us northerners do look forward to our summers. In three short months we pack a years worth of visiting, celebrations, camping, fishing, cookouts, softball, t-ball, swimming lessons and assorted activities, deemed unsuitable for the other months of a Minnesota year. We look forward to moments of rest and relaxation . . . time to be re-created within. We need these moments. We were not created to work nonstop. Early in our relationship with God, we learned that Sabbath – one day in seven set aside for God was essential, not only to worship and honor God, but for ourselves.
The season of Retirement has become a season of Sabbath for me. I’ve found myself being drawn back, more fully into my relationship with God. I’ve known others who have found that Sabbath time in an illness or in recovery from surgery . . . moments when space and time allow for one to turn our hearts and to tune our spirits to God’s presence.
The rhythm’s of life demand that we pull back, take stock of our lives before we race to the next place. In a world where the noise of social media, text messages, cell phones and e-mails break into our silence, we need place and time set aside to commune with our creator. We are most whole when we are in touch and touched by God. In our quiet moments, we make room for God to speak to our hearts and feed our souls. The still small voice of God is most clear, when we let go of the noise and make time for God.
One of my favorite new hymns of the church is based on Psalm 42:1. Martin Nystrom’s “As the deer” captures my soul’s need for being in relationship with God. With the words . . “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you . . . You alone are my strength, my shield . . . you alone are my heart’s desire and I long to worship you.”
“Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.” I wrote those words spoken by the Biblical Jacob (Genesis 28:16) in a thank you to the staff at the NICU where my youngest daughter spent her first three months of life. I had come to see that critical care unit as holy ground, sacred space – that space where the crossroads of life and death are determined. Sacred spaces are those where we encounter the mystery of God. It is not reserved for church buildings, although those who frequent them will testify to God’s presence there.
Visitors to the Vietnam War Memorial or Ground Zero will tell of sacred space, hallowed with the prayers, tears and memories of all who have been there. One morning I stood at a place in the road where three students and two recent graduates of a college in southeastern Minnesota lost their lives, when their car slid into the icy waters of the Mississippi. I knew myself to be in sacred space. I was standing on Holy ground, space made sacred by the prayers of friends and family who had stood in that place before me.
Day by day we live in Holy space – that gateway where we are touched by the mystery of God. Sacred space, Holy ground exists wherever one encounters the living God and we know in that moment we are in the presence of the Holy. It is an awesome place. Jacob was on the run, fleeing for his life when he encountered sacred space. To his surprise he discovered himself in the presence of God. Not knowing what else to say, he blurted out, “How awesome is this place. This is none other than the very gate of heaven.” For Jacob it was the beginning of a journey into a relationship with God which would alter the course of his life. Our encounters with the Holy are life changing as well. For in that Holy, sacred space God touches our hearts and tells us we are loved.