This past weekend, I went to a theological seminar down at one of my favorite places, Kirkridge Retreat Center. I was going to feed my head a little bit, change my pace a little. in other words, to slow down while receiving a little education.
Well, that didn't happen. I went thinking it was a retreat, but there was nothing "retreat" about it!
What I got was mind-bending, challenging and exhilirating, I loved it, but I couldn't call it restful.
There are a lot of things to think about with regard to what I heard. But I do want to pass along this particular thought I was led to toward one of our meditations.
Kirkridge is down near Stroudsburg, Delaware Water Gap, and Bangor, in PA. They are up on a mountain, and they take pride in saying that they are in the oldest mountain range in the world. I think that's probably true, geologically, actually. The main center overlooks the Delaware river valley to the east, and there is a pretty sharp drop.
The retreat leader, J. Philip Newell, had just given us a bit of scripture to meditate on, and we had gone out into the sun to do what we were told. I sat on one of the rocks overlooking the drop, because the scripture we had been charged with was "It is I, do not be afraid." In Latin, he told us, it is "Ergo Sum, Nole Tamara" (any spelling errors are entirely mine).
So I am out on that rock, overlooking that drop of about 30 feet through brambles and brush, and I notice a chipmunk moving through the brush. And he isn't just moving. He's jumping from branch to branch, running down thin branches, all at breakneck speed. Sometimes he stops to check where he is, then he's off again, doing this amazing acrobatic show.
My eye is caught by a shape hurtling from above. I focus on a bird (what kind, I don't know, I'm not very well versed in birding. I know enough to be able to call this one an LBJ, or Little Brown Job). He flies straight earthward at what must be his terminal velocity, and pulls up and into the brambles, flying through them at breakneck speed, until he alights on one random branch.
If I was that chipmunk, I'd be testing the branch before I walked out on it, and then I would proceed carefully and gingerly. Leaping from branch to branch like some crazed pirate going from mast to mast would have been entirely beyond me. If I was that bird, I would have gently circled down to the ground outside the brambles, and walked to the nearest branch. None of this flying through the branches at top speed after a steep and long dive.
Somehow, the animals know Ergo Sum, Nole Tamara better than we do. There's an inherent knowledge and trust of ones' God-given abilities shown by nature that we have somehow lost, and yet we, the humans, are the "saved" ones.
So what does that tell us? Jesus said
‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. (Matthew 6: 25-29)
We are his people. He came to earth because he loved us, and wanted to be with us in the relationship that he had with humans in Eden. If we can really trust that, then we can also trust that he means it when he says ergo sum, nole tamara.