Last week I went on a writing retreat for a few days. It seemed like a good idea, I would get some uninterrupted writing time, able to maintain a bit of focus across days where at home I would have to shift gears for family time in the evenings. It was completely funded, including flights to get there and back. I was ready to dive into writing the next section of my thesis, a solid block of time for it would be great. I had even hit the part of my period cycle where I grump whenever anyone comes near, so some alone time would be good for both me and my family. Like I said, it seemed to be a really good idea.
That is until I was sitting in the airport waiting for my flight. I had a chunk of time, so I thought I’d spend it in prayer. Almost straight away I feel a nudge from God. “Did you ask me about doing this?”
Umm, well no, it just seemed like a really good idea, I thought it would be good for my writing.
“Yeah, but did you stop and ask me about this?”
No, but you want me to get my PhD finished and this looked like a good way to get a chunk of it done. And I’ve never been on a writing retreat, but they always sound so good, and you want me writing don’t you?
“Yes, I want you writing, but I want you inside my will, to be doing it within the life you have. You don’t need to go on a retreat to get good writing done, especially when the focus has nothing to do with me. Yes, it’s a monastery, but that doesn’t mean I want you to go there.”
And I feel like I might be travelling to a “place of God”, but am doing so by stepping outside of God’s will.
No, it doesn’t mean God can’t use it anyway, and it doesn’t mean God isn’t with me, and it doesn’t mean I can’t get good writing done. What it does mean is that I didn’t stop and talk to God about this before I agreed to come.
I spend some of my flight in prayer too, asking for forgiveness.
Sometimes when I ask for God’s opinion on something, I don’t feel like I get an answer. Often there’s no clear yes or no about what I should be doing. And I didn’t even think to ask about this one. How was I to know this was one God did have a preference for? I guess it’s the practice of talking to God about what I am doing, to let God have a say rather than assume it doesn’t matter.
One kind of assumes that as you grow up you are given more freedom along with the increased responsibility, that you now know the ways so you just go ahead and walk in them without the close supervision, but it seems like the opposite is actually true for our spiritual lives. I feel like God is drawing me closer, tighter, more reliant on God for even small direction. As one gets closer to God you are more in tune with the Spirit, yes, but that just means it is easier to notice when you step outside it. So instead of growing up to be less reliant on our heavenly parent, we grow more reliant, less self-controlled and more God-controlled. It’s the opposite of what we think of as growing up and gaining independence. Yes, we gain control over ourselves, but that is so we can bend our will to God’s.
“And Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” –Matthew 18:3-4