Over the past couple of years I have become aware of the fact that I don’t play as much as I once did/want to/think I should.
That scares me.
Or rather, it did scare me, until this April when I attended my first course in the Columbia Theological Seminary Spiritual Formation Program at Montreat. The topic was “Wisdom of the Christian Mystics” and it was presented by Carl McColman, author of several books, including The Big Book of Christian Mysticism.
A day and a half into the program and my spiritual life, indeed my whole life, was affected in a major way.
I felt freedom to play with God. And I did!
Here's the story:
Having worked with Presbyterian youth for a few years there was no way I could go to Montreat (every good Presbyterian’s favorite place on Earth!) for the first time without hiking up Lookout Mountain. With clear skies in the forecast for Saturday I planned to use my lunch break to do just that.
However, as I began the ascent, something felt off. A few minutes into my walk I took hold of a tree on the edge of the path and gently swung myself around a corner.
As I did I felt a whisper deep inside me that said, "You're not experiencing your experience."
I stopped, took my shoes and socks off, and immediately was reminded of my groundedness in God. All was right.
As I often am when my bare skin touches the Earth, I was at peace. But it was a different sort of peace. It was more of a playful peace than a calm peace.
The ground sparkled such a brilliant gold that I looked down half wondering if a group of middle school girls had let loose with glitter the night before. Curiously, I looked at the bottom of my feet hoping they would be painted gold.
I continued climbing. And then, I reached the summit.
But I didn’t spend long there because, honestly, I was more taken by the views along the way.
And so, I took a few cleansing deep breaths and started the descent. After just a few steps I realized I needed to put my socks and shoes back on for the trip down. I had planned to hike up the mountain that day. What I didn’t plan for was what happened on the way back down!
I tied the laces on my boots, but then I couldn’t walk.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t move. I just couldn’t walk.
I could only run!
And skip. And dance.
I ran/skipped/danced down the entire mountain, wildly swinging my arms and grinning so big I broke out in laughter.
I played with God.
When I got to the bottom of the mountain I still couldn’t stop. I continued running and laughing all the way down Lookout Road and back to the conference center (another three quarters of a mile).
My “mountain top” experience happened while traveling the mountain. Not at the summit. It was another beautiful reminder that it’s not about achieving anything. It's about engaging in spiritual practices every day. It’s about spending time in silence and stillness every day. It’s about the journey.
Later that weekend I continued to play with God by writing a poem that formulated within me while running down Lookout Mountain. It was the first poem I had written since I was 14 and will be included in a future blog post.
HOW DO YOU PLAY WITH GOD? Tell us about it in the comment section below!