(Editor's Note: Robert Propst uses meditations from Berry Simpson in his training for the Peppers, a group of Holy Communion men who meet at 6 a.m. to prepare for the Book It 5K. They met this morning for the first time in preparation for this year's race on September 16.)
Close to Holy
Last week I read Psalm 42:2, “My soul thirsts for God,” and it launched me to wondering how I could make that my story. How can my soul become thirsty for God?
Does that sort of thing come naturally for human beings created by God in his own image? Or is it a thirst we develop through spiritual practices? Or could it be a completely free gift from God?
Or an even better question might be, why am I not constantly thirsty, like the Psalmist? Is it because I’m not paying attention? Do I come close to holy without seeing it?
Rachel Naomi Remen, an author, physician and founder of the Institute for the Study of Health and Illness, wrote about a physician’s seminar in which she asked the doctors to use stethoscopes to listen to their own hearts. Once they all stopped diagnosing themselves and settled into really listening to what they heard, the room became quiet and mysterious. She said after the exercise was over, there was a long silence. Then one of the cardiologists began to speak about his work and to wonder aloud how one could be so close to something holy and not know it.
The doctor quoted a prayer from Gates of Prayer (a Jewish prayer book), “Days pass and the years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles. How filled with awe is this place and we did not know it.”
It’s so easy to underestimate the significance of our lives, to find ourselves standing beside God’s gifts and not recognize them.
One of my recently favorite movies, About Time, is a 2013 British romantic comedy about a young man with the special ability to travel back in time, a power he used to change his past in order to improve his future. Of course, he learns there are great limits to what time travel can achieve, and it can be dangerous. He eventually understands his most valuable gift is to notice the details of every day, to live in the present, to look for the holy as it happens.
God once reminded me, personally, to pay more attention when I was attending a Wild at Heart Advanced Camp at Crooked Creek Ranch in Colorado. After watching the movie August Rush, which affected me deeply, God brought me to the edge of my emotional limits by speaking through my own voice, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know how big it is.”
I had been underestimating the impact and significance of the gifts and abilities he had given to me. I was so fixed on the details of daily life and the specifics of ministry, I forgot how big it was. I had missed the awe. I was walking sightless among miracles. I wasn’t thirsty for God.
So, my prayer for this summer while I’m hiking the mountains is that I will stay thirsty and pay attention to the miracles surrounding me.
If you want to pray for me, pray the same prayer quoted by the cardiologist in Ms. Remen’s seminar: Days pass and the years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles. Lord, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing. Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning, illumines the darkness in which we walk. Help us to see, wherever we gaze, that the bush burns, unconsumed. And we, clay touched by God, will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, “How filled with awe is this place and we did not know it.”
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
(Berry Simpson is an engineer, marathon runner and the author of three books: Remodeled, Running with God, and Retreating with God.)