After a hectic few weeks that saw me working non-stop for almost a month, I decided to take a day and a half retreat to the nearby mountains in Magoebaskloof. Armed with my mountain bike, Nikon D80, two books and a generous supply of water, I climbed into my car and headed out of town.
Arriving in Haenertsburg, I sat down to a cappuccino at the Red Plate to finish the last few chapters of Barbara Brown Taylor’s excellent faith-memoir called Leaving Church. From here I drove to the Magoebaskloof Hotel for some lunch, biting into the first few chapters of Ian Morgan Cron’s Chasing Francis at the same time. With my satisfied stomach calling for an afternoon nap, I booked myself into the nearby Black Forest Mountain Lodge, a favourite spot of mine.
After a solitary night filled with pizza, reading and a symphony of frogs and insects lighting up the night with their songs of praise, I got onto my Silverback the following morning and aimed at a high peak which I visited once before by vehicle which gave a breathtaking view of the surrounding area. I underestimated the steepness of the climb completely, but after some time peddling, walking and vomiting out a portion of my morning breakfast, I reached the top and I was not disappointed. Apart from the view that invited my eyes to gaze into all directions, crossing forests and hills and lakes, I found myself standing in an unending wide river of a gazillion white butterflies spilling over the mountain from the west and flying east. As I drank in this glorious spectacle for about a half-hour or so, I reminisced on how I would’ve missed out on this beauty if I had given into the temptation of turning back when the climb became too steep for me. If fortune favours the brave, then beauty definitely favours the patient.
‘Ascending the mountain’ to reach some sort of epiphany seems to be a favorite biblical metaphor. More than a metaphor, it also seems one of the preferred ways in which God chooses to relate with His people. Think of Abraham, Moses and even Jesus. There’s something about the journey up a mountain – the increasing solitude, the time to reflect, the sheer exhausting nature of it all – that prepares us to receive something special from the hand of our Creator.
In my previous post I made the simple observation that if there is no God-life present in the individual members of the Jesus family, then there will be no God-life available to share amongst each other. In order for us to become a sharing community, we first have to become a listening community. In order for us to listen, we need to place ourselves in an environment where we can hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. Creating listening environments is not simply an individual pursuit but also a corporate calling. What I am not suggesting is that we all run up mountains when we gather. What I am suggesting, though, is that we gather in such a way that will make it possible to hear what God is saying to us instead of simply jumping into our established routines and pre-determined programs. The next post will explore this idea in further detail.