Visiting friends last weekend in their lovely cottage home in northern Michigan, the notable quiet of the region struck me our first night there. I noticed immediately as my head hit the pillow the profound lack of city din - just the dark stillness unbroken by city lights.
Now I do like our home neighborhood, an attractive and peaceful place offering the blessings and curses of suburbia. Conveniences that support our work, shopping, visiting and busy lifestyles also press into our beings to keep us in a constant state of agitation. To escape “up north” requires jumping onto a convenient road until we “exit” onto a less convenient but slower-paced one that winds over, around and through woods and farms and small towns.
Driving leisurely, we enjoyed the ride until we arrived at our friends’ getaway perched atop a land swale overlooking rolling, treed lands on one side and a huge bay on the other that opens onto Lake Michigan, one of five “great lakes,” three that envelop our mitten-shaped home state.
Just after arriving, we were treated to a stunning sunset over the bay followed closely by a robust rainstorm that rolled in to wash the land with much-needed refreshment.
Due to a series of job changes over the last year that had me always earning my place in another new pecking order, I haven’t been able to take time off for a little getaway. When our friends graciously invited us up for quick weekend, we readily accepted.
After getting off the highway, we drove atop yellow-striped, black-topped roads that I’ve grown to love and often use as imagery for reflecting on my journey through life under God’s tutelage. Just a few miles from our friend’s place is the stretch of M88 that has served as the banner for Road Report Journal since its launch in 2012.
No need to talk to me about regular respite. I am very intentional about building plenty of it into my life such as morning devotions, Saturday morning writing and a prayer meeting, reading, and scenic walks and drives with my wife….
Back when my work schedule was more set and predictable, we took annual, two-week vacations that usually involved camping in the woods, often near a lake or river or mountain far away from city din.
While on the one hand, God created our bountiful earth just for us humans to live, work, play and commune with neighbors and build community, we rebelled against his intent to draw from and trust, acknowledge and honor him every moment. Mercifully, he refrained from ridding creation of us by allowing us to pursue life according to us while also hatching a “Mission Christ” redemption strategy to win us back into his fold.
I wonder what life would be like had we not rebelled? Not that urban congestion and noise would not be part of our lives but maintaining connection and relationship with God would be normal and common. Perhaps escape would be unnecessary since relating to and honoring God would be a part of our regular life pattern.
Thankfully, God’s Christ strategy included conscripting certain people down through the ages for key roles while also compiling the unfolding story into a grand read we know today as “the Bible.” There we find plenty of context and insight for how to live for him in a creation spoiled by our rebellion.
On looking to nature for cues:
- Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy (Psalm 96:11-12, ESV)
- “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12, ESV)
On God speaking into our stillness:
- “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10, ESV)
- He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. (Psalm 23:2, ESV)
- But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. (Psalm 131:2, ESV)
Of course, Jesus himself walked the talk as he invited his apostles to ‘“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.” (Mark 6:31-32, ESV)
He urged that “...when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6) while also modeling his own advice.
“After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23)
As his story resonates in my being, I gratefully incorporate regular quiet into my life and, occasionally, with a little help from my friends, more extended doses of it.