The front door opens as we pull into the drive, as my friend and I unfold our legs and think toward dislodging my bags, my chair, the hat I wear on the beach. Our conversation hangs unfinished and that suits us fine.
Conversations between true friends never really end anyway.
We leave the words scattered like bits of shell, treasures God will sift and reshape and reorder before we return again to collect them. God has carved out a space between us, a place we share collectively, the ever-changing landscape of our friendship. An ocean of grace soaks and sculpts the open places where we walk—a sea alive and tremendous, sometimes frothy and pounding, sometimes still and shining like silver. The sound fills our ears. It is the sound of God breathing, God speaking, God dwelling. His presence, His grace, changes everything between us. It’s a reality we feel, a truth that saturates.
I’ve been thinking of this the whole way home, how the prophet once wrote it clear that He listens, He hears, He remembers the conversations between friends who love Him.
Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name (Malachi 3: 16).
Fragile, broken, dangerous things lay jagged on the sand where we’ve left them, in all the places our footprints press deep. This delicate, Spirit-blown glass we have offered openly, leaving all the raw edges exposed. Over time, God will wash and glaze and soften our confessions until they become the jewels around our necks.
We glance at each other, two friends home, and turn our attention toward Kevin and Riley at the door waiting. There’s something beautiful about returning home to find love waiting at the door. They have watched for us, listening for the sound of wheels in the street, not too preoccupied to wait upon the signs. The sight of them reminds me who I am here.
The trip had been something I needed, a coming home of a different kind, a chance to leave my phone on the table in my room and walk away. I discovered a long time ago that these getaways make me a better mother, a better wife, a better woman. Sometimes all the activity, the breathless pace, the too-much, makes it hard to remember the lasting things. I get confused about what’s important and what just feels urgent, about what’s real and what’s only a poor reflection of the truth. I imagine my life as the sum total of so many distractions, statuses, to-do lists. When the urgency consumes, a good fast seems to be the only way I can recognize true hunger, the only way I can be filled.
My friends will laugh at the word fast, sitting there looking significant, since on these weekends away we eat like queens. We take turns cooking for each other. It’s the only time I am ever called in to dinner ready and steaming, something more delicious because I did not prepare it myself. But this fasting, the kind I’ve come to see that I desperately need, is of an entirely different kind.
I gather my Sabbaths in pockets of time unplugged from media and social networks and chiming notifications. It should be easy, but really it isn’t. It takes effort and intention these days to choose to set aside all my self-creating to wander raw and unmade beside silver seas. It’s odd how very easily I forget the spaces in which I truly breathe full breaths. We unpacked our cars at the beach that first day and settled into our rooms, and I stood barefoot on the carpet staring at the bed, suddenly no longer propelled by responsibility. I felt soul-starved and numb. I had almost forgetten how to just be.
Sabbath, God whispered, reminding me. I changed into a swimsuit and walked toward the ocean, letting the sea breeze blow away my sighs.
In the beginning, long before our always on, always available culture lived out loud, God commanded a day that the gates should be closed and the work should be set aside, a time to remember and trust and find Him again.
Grace pounds and glistens, always right under my feet, and sometimes I’m too plugged in to listen, too distracted to see, too busy to watch and wait, too numb to feel the spray on my skin. It gets so that I pick up my phone everytime it dings.
I bring with me the resolution to build Sabbath into my day, to look at email once, to leave my phone on the charger upstairs when we’ve all returned home. I want to be present enough to notice arrival and becoming, aware enough to take full breaths.
I gather love waiting in my open arms. I put my bags down in the doorway.
“Zoe’s playing, I guess?”
Kevin smiles, lifting a hand dismissively toward the door. “She’s outside, imagining something.”
I stand at the bottom of the stairs and look up into the empty hall. “Hello, Adam.”
I know he’s up there, involved, absorbed, but always listening. “Mommy!” He says my name with a gasp. I hear his feet beating against the floor. He runs to me. “Hello, Mommy,” He says as he rounds the corner and descends the stairs. He bends to kiss me, wrapping his arms around my shoulders. And then he disappears, running back the way he came, back to whatever he’s doing up there. But I stand at the bottom of the stairs, holding gifts—his waiting, the gasp behind my name, the sound of his feet against the floor, his words, a kiss and a hug I didn’t demand, the love that made him stop his busy long enough to see me.
It’s only because I’m standing there raw, open from the fasting, that I think of it, that I realize that God delights in these same things—my anticipation of Him; my precious, awkward words; when I love enough to stop my busy long enough to see Him.
It makes me laugh out loud this truth that reaches deep, a foundation, the seed of something well-rooted:
I’m so hungry for God.
The hardest thing—and also the very best–about a spiritual fast is that it gently rubs away my numbness. And the truth gnaws, leaving me no longer content to settle for less.