This past October I had the opportunity through my seminary to spend a week at the Abbey of Gethsemani monastery in Kentucky. It was an amazing time of silence, solitude and retreat.
During a day we spent in complete silence our professor encouraged us on to take a prayer walk. We had been told by our teacher and others of this great path to see these statues on part of the monastery. So spending the day in silence I decided to take my prayer walk to go and see these statues everyone was raving about. I started to follow the signs marked “Statues” with an arrow sign across a road. Then the path took me up some steps fashioned into the side of the hill, across this sketchy metal bridge and to a clearing with a beautiful pond which was reflecting the autumn foliage.
Taking in the scenery I continued on up another set of steps and along a curved path carved through trees. My pursuit of these statues was growing longer and my legs tired. I turned another corner approached a seemingly dead end where I found a one foot ceramic angel sitting on a bench. At this point I broke my vow of silence with an audible chuckle. This was the statue I spent 45 minutes hiking to that everyone was raving about? After I regained my self I realized the path continued on for another quarter mile or so past various statues ranging from lawn ornaments to large stone statues. The path eventually leads to 2 large black stone statues of Jesus praying at the Garden of Gethsemani and three apostles asleep.
As I sat reflecting on that prayer walk I felt convicted of an attitude of my heart. During that walk I was so goal oriented in reaching these statues that I completely missed out on the beauty that was the walk getting there. The Spirit showed me that my life here on earth I am often times looking towards the end instead of living with God in the moment. That day I wrote this in my journal:
There is no destination here on Earth:
Live in the present
Live in the presence of God
As we live in the Lent season celebrating Easter and anticipating the Second Coming let us not forget while on earth to live in His presence. Colossians 3:1-4 – “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” It is easy for us to always look ahead and never take a moment to breathe and rest in the Lord. That is where our peace, identity and life are found. A monk Brother Lawrence wrote “I know that for the right practice of the heart must be empty of all other things, because God will possess the heart alone; and as He cannot possess it alone without emptying it of all besides Him.” Take a moment today to be still and silent. Receive what God has for you in that moment. Empty yourself of yourself. Live in the present. Live in the presence of God.
Daniel Ulrich is the director of student and young adult ministries at Sicklerville UMC and serves on the camp’s board of directors. Image credit: Bryan Sherwood, via Wikimedia Commons