Reluctant For Transcendence
I am scheduled to go on a three-day silent retreat with the Jesuits today and I don’t want to go. Worse, I don’t exactly know why. I have done this twice before at the same place and found each experience valuable. After about six weeks of a full and overfull house (filled with people I love, I should add), an uninterrupted time of listening to teaching and meditating and praying should be very attractive. My tentative conclusion—arrived at after writing the last sentence—is that I want to limit my time with God.
Or maybe not so much limit it as manage it. I think I want appointments with God more than being too long in the tangible presence of God. (And feeling the presence of God is tangible—the body gives report.) Sunday services and regular times of prayer are such appointments. As was the funeral yesterday that celebrated the hope of the resurrection.
And, you see, my appointment schedule for the next three days seems fully booked. After a longish hiatus I want very much to get back to revising a novel I’m laboring over. And I had made a date with my wife to finally, finally, finally bring some order to our stuffed garaged (having forgotten about the retreat). And then there’s the World Cup. I’ll miss at least six games, including the next one for England, for whom I loyally root despite all evidence against their chances.
Really God—don’t you see how busy I am? You are the one who made us incarnated and gave us the command to subdue the earth. I’m subduing like crazy. How can I take three days off for a silent retreat? I have trouble praying and meditating for more than fifteen minutes at a time. How can you expect me to keep it going for three long days?
But now, wouldn’t you know it, certain stories are popping into my head. The disciples sleeping in the garden of Gethsemane, unable to offer comfort at Jesus’ lowest point; Jonah fleeing Ninevah because it didn’t fit his plans; the fellow refusing the offer to follow Jesus because he had to go home to bury his father. What an inconvenient time to recall such stories. I wish they would leave me alone.
Okay, so I’m going. It’s what characters in this big story of faith do, and I’m trying to be such a character. But I’m taking a book. It’s by my friend Tremper and it’s on the book of Proverbs. So God won’t be upset if I take a break from praying and meditating and read something about the Bible. After all, I’m supposed to talk about wisdom next week and I need to know what the Bible has to say about it.
Why does my reluctance to engage transcendence feel something like foolishness?