I am “on retreat” this weekend because I needed it.
“On retreat” in this case, is a Christian phrase meant to suggest a retreat from the usual battles of the world in order to gather your strength before flinging yourself back into the fray (synonyms include: fight, argument, quarrel, fracas, dispute, disagreement, affray, skirmish).
For me, none of this involves my wife or kids. It does involve lots of other things.
The main one is that I have been in an internal spiritual skirmish with myself. I am a Christian (“duh!”, right?), but for some time now, my walk with God has been seriously lame. I mean that in both ways, too. Lame as in “that is SO lame!” and lame as in a physical handicap.
Because my walk has been lame, everyday stresses (both positive and negative!) – student testing, applications for summer school and for college, family members who are too close to a psychologically unstable military dictator, being overweight, a writing “career”, my education relicensure, and an upcoming wedding I will perform – have been enormously exacerbated by my parents’ continuing decline and the necessity of my deep involvement in that, as well as continuing issues with my wife’s breast cancer treatments.
Even the “triage counselor” at the school I work at thought me getting away for a retreat was a good thing. When I mentioned I’d been snapping at people, she said, “No, not that. It’s just that your eyes look flustered.”
The theme of this retreat has been “For we walk/live by faith, not by sight.” Second Corinthians 5:7. The verse is strangely tucked into a narrative that’s discussing whether or not we’d prefer to be dead and with God or alive and NOT with God. There is also discussion as to whether the Greek word should be translated into “walk” or “live”.
The Bible study leader has chosen the life of Abram-Abraham as the vehicle for this weekend, so we’ve been delving into his life as it is recorded in Genesis.
A couple of points and how they intersect with my writing.
The first point is that I prefer the “walk” translation over the “live” translation. As a writer, I am hyper aware of the meaning and implication of words. In this case, I find that “walk” is a more active verb than is “live”. My recent experiences with my parents have given me new appreciation of this. Both are victims of the life-sucking condition we tremblingly name “Alzheimer’s” – to universal dismay and sympathy. My parents live in a retirement community, but within that community, my mother lives in her chair. While she is absolutely and completely alive, her active and vibrant past has disappeared from her. She lives, so passively now that it is painful for me to see her.
While on this retreat, I went on a two mile walk through mud, over waterlogged fields, and along woodchip trails. I reveled in the quiet, and while it was cloudy and unseasonably cold, soaked in the peace as if it were brilliant sunshine.
“For we WALK by faith, not by sight.”
I may have been living by faith (though rather pathetically), but after this weekend, I may once again walk (by faith).
Secondly, while I have certainly been writing, submitting, and planning; in my perception, I’ve been laboring entirely on my own. God really had no part in my creative process, and to be frank, I didn’t see why he’d care about my trivial SF stories or about a career as insignificant as mine when he was clearly in charge of careers of men and women like Gene Wolfe, Connie Willis, Brad Torgerson, Kathy Tyers, and Orson Scott Card.
It’s clear that God intervened in the lives of men like Abraham; but I had forgotten that God’s word is meant for all of us. Even insignificant counselor/science fiction writers like me.
It’s good to remember this; it’s good to begin an active walk with God…