A week ago today, I hurtled over a mountain pass in the pitch black of night and jolted three miles up a red gravel road. I was hot on the trail of a caravan comprised of staff and friends of the program where I'm a mentor. We got a late start, so we whizzed at a startling pace round hairpin curves, up through the black arms of huge spruces and right to the front door of a mountain lodge, and all in the inkiest night. I stumbled out; stars, the kind that get up in your face and stare unblinking, hovered over me as I lugged my three-months worth of luggage into a corner room of a smaller cabin. I collapsed on my bed and fell sound asleep. 6 0'clock next morning I woke woozily to dove light. Curious at what I would find, I crept out of bed and pushed back the curtains. I gaped and knew that I was in the wild. I've always dreamed of living in the wild. My view was of a valley all tumbled with dappled aspen and scrub oak, and a green shoulder of ridge beyond, and a purpled peak beyond that, and above all the sky ashimmer with a light like pearls. Glory be.
Now, a week later, the adventure is about to begin. Dozens of students have arrived, the cabins are all in order, the staff is primed and ready and the rooms are, well, generally unpacked. Not neat, but unpacked. And in about an hour, my seven girl "mentorees" will perch in my room for our first small group meeting.
It's incredible what you can learn in a week. My mind has been awhirl with the realization of the gift God gave in bringing me here, the gift of rediscovering the love of discipleship that is the heritage I have from my family. The gift of community - do you know how much fun it is to live with many people and have huge meals and many discussions? The gift of nature, of disconnection from a hurried age, of silent, silent mornings. The gift of having time to love people and laugh late into the night, but also to run, run, run after the living God.
That's what I'm going to talk to my girls about tonight. We'll pull the door closed, light as many candles as I can find, and drink hot chocolate. I've decided that we'll study prayer this year; in the midst of a thousand ideas being learned, we'll take time to rest, to be hushed and humble, to drink in beauty and listen for the heart of God. Tonight, we'll start by hearing the stories of how they got here and what they hope and the dreams that this time will shape. I'll tell them a bit of my own story and of the path that brought me here. Since this is my one chance to blog this week, I thought I'd just tell you the same thing.
I'm here because God closed many doors and left this single one open. He is gracious; he says no to what will destroy us, even when we are blind and hurt and rail at him for it. Then he opens that one, unlikely door, knowing the dawn-like grace hidden on the other side. That's the door I just walked through here. But my story for tonight goes back several years before, to the time when I was a student just like these girls, hungry to know the living God, determined to know everything I could about truth. I've written about my time as a student intern before, the ups and downs, and the ache for God that plagued me through it. I've written about Aptin, and the gracious feast he threw, the feast that restored my hope in God's love, and that's the story my girls will hear tonight, because I want to be the love for my girls that I was missing in my time as a student. I had so much truth and no beauty, and I want to teach them to keep their souls alive, to cultivate relationships, to see the living, beautiful, dancing God even as they study his truth. So, this will be my challenge to them.
God is rich, and living, and immediately available. You are here because we believe that there is a truth in the universe that can be known, a love that can be lived, a beauty that can be tasted and seen in the outworking of meals, work, play, and friendship. But the heart of it all is the living God, a heart that beats life into all things, a love that is the core of our existence. Amidst your studies and fun, your play and work, I want you to take time away, to sink deeply into the rare quiet of this place, because God is waiting to meet with you. God is alive, and ready every single minute to fill and teach and form your heart. It is his living love that gives meaning to the truth you learn and the work you do. But that love must be sought in quiet, cultivated in the hushed, inner rooms of your heart.
Are you read to meet the Beloved God in the quiet of your soul?
Because here, in these rare three months, you have the chance to pull away, to take time in these mountains to open your heart to God, to sharpen your inner vision, to listen deeply and meet the Almighty maker of heaven and earth. You have the chance to fill your soul with all beautiful things. To seek what is lovely, to meditate on the truth you learn, to let your heart grow in love for all the people around you. But you must draw away. You must sink into the quiet of the patient pines, sit silent beneath the stars, crouch quiet in your room in the early morning. If you will, I know that God will meet with you. For he always does. He only needs a ready heart.That's my challenge to them.
But I'm speaking it to myself too. I'm speaking it to the world as much as anyone. These students sure do have a special set apart time here. But God meets us in every walk of life, in every day, in every second that we open to him. God has already met me here with such grace, reawakening old dreams, renewing old passions for ministry, filling my lonely heart with the community for which I have longed. But he waits to meet all of us. He yearns to answer the prayers we are still waiting to pray. He longs to walk into the doors of the hearts we have not yet opened. I am so excited to see what happens in the hearts around me here this fall. May a similar joy, growth, and meeting with God happen in your heart as well.
So, this is Sarah, signing off from the wild mountains. Until next week!