He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while. (MarK 6:31 NRS)
This past weekend I had the opportunity to lead a retreat in the country. We were a small gathering, but every person arrived with a sense of needing respite and renewal. Each left refreshed, armed with new tools of self-discovery and a sense of community.
The first day, with dry weather and an open afternoon, allowed time for exploration of walking paths on gently rolling hills past ponds and hay fields. I came across a little worn path, Weston Woods. My curiosity got the best of me as I stopped off the main, well-groomed trail and began meandering through the woods. Up and down I went, past creeks and the remains of bonfires of the past. The other paths were recognizable, carefully explained to me by my host. But this path was unfamiliar and rugged. The solitude embraced me, my mind wondering all the while, “Why am I on this path? Should I be here? What lies ahead?”
The tracks of the deer put me at ease. The lasting impressions of their sturdy hooves in the soft soil told me I was heading someplace familiar to many, if not to me. The trees were so thick that I couldn’t see very far down the path where I was headed, but I trusted the ones who had gone there before to guide me. The reward for my patience revealed itself in an open meadow with one spectacular and ancient oak holding court in the center. How wonderful are the works of your hand, O God! Such beauty tucked away as a jewel awaiting discovery. The peaceful shade under its wide branches echoed to me Christ’s words, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourself and rest a while.”
My journey as a special needs parent reminds me of my time in the woods. It was a world I entered by stepping off the familiar path of parenthood that I had expected, that one reserved for “typical parents” and for which I had carefully prepared. I found myself wondering, “Why am I on this path? Should I be here? What lies ahead?” Even as I felt a little lost, I trusted the trailblazers who had gone before, following along in their footsteps. Moments of loneliness and shadow giving way to beauty and joy, discovering anew God’s promise that all of creation is beautifully and wonderfully made. My role is to trust and follow and allow the journey to unfold.
Guiding God, Thank you for leading when we cannot see the way. Thank you for renewal when we feel tired. Thank you for surprising us with beauty in unexpected places. Amen