Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Being Caught by God

This last weekend Jill and I attended a Prayer Retreat at Rosary Heights Dominican Retreat Center in Edmonds. It was a glorious setting and the day offered lots of opportunity for quiet time with God in all his glory in the grounds of the estate and the vista of the Olympic Mountains across the sound. The sessions were led by Rev. Terry Tripp, whom I have been blessed to get to know over these past few years. Her husband, John Tripp, was there too, providing beautiful background music on his acoustic guitar. As a special start to the day, and to prepare our hearts for the raw, uncovered, truth of God in the midst of even the most difficult walks, John and Terry shared some of their recent journey through Johns diagnosis of cancer: the devastation of negative test results; sorrow and worry over how this experience affects their three college age children; accepting the physical losses and long-term pain; how such an experience opens, changes and enriches an otherwise ordinary long-term marriage, and; how God is not only found, but clung to in the midst of the horrors, and shows Himself in the hands and hearts of dear friends and caring strangers. John shared an image of what the experience was by describing something that happened to him when he was younger, about the time he first met Terry. They were with a group on an alpine hike, above the tree line. He had volunteered to step out ahead and test the stability of a cut across a steep slope. The test failed and he found himself sliding down the shrub covered rocky slope, gaining speed as he went down. As he bumped down, he frantically grabbed at anything he could hold on to to stop his ascent, which up above the tree line was really only shrubs, many of them thorny. The shrubs poked and scratched his hands but it didn’t matter. He was grabbing for anything he could to save himself. John told this story, with raw emotion, in his head replacing the fall on the slope with the fall away from his very physically active, healthy life so recently lost to him. I truly appreciated his shared vulnerability and the opportunity it provided to think later, as I was meditating on the estate grounds, to think about my own slides down life’s slippery slope. About the times I too was grasping for anything to hold on to, even at the cost of injuring my hands. About the shrubbery that were my friends and my Church, that God put there for me to hold on to and stop that ascent. And how even when I was resigned to the fall, no longer wanting to catch hold, He caught me on a thorny bush, snagged my defeated body and wouldn’t let go. I think we often equate God with the sound of trumpets and glorious light and overwhelming feelings of well being. And sometimes He comes wrapped in such a package. But more often we find Him on the fall, when we are frantically searching for anything to hold on-to, or even when we decide not to fight the fall any more. I thank John for providing with such openness that compelling image to the group of strangers and friends gathered at Rosary Heights on Saturday. It was beautiful.

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