We sat back in the airplane seats and exhaled, half- triumphantly, half-exhaustedly. We had done it – somehow we had managed to get a suitcase, a rucksack, a disabled and chronically ill wife (me), a restless toddler and an exhausted husband onto the flight. Below us, we could see them throwing the bags onto the plane with a certain degree of carelessness. We felt the relief of no longer having anything to carry.
My mind ran over the chaos of the past few days: the packing,writing of lists, resting in preparation, the phone calls, last-minute shopping for essentials, researching of the symptoms of sunstroke in under-fives, the rush of the deadline to finish remaining work.
There are times when life is a whirlwind and we are whirling within it. Our days had been full of flurry and preparation and whirlwind and now we sat, waiting.
The plane took off, and I watched the landscape change from the window. With a sleeping toddler on my lap, there wasn’t much else to do. People, cars, trains, were reduced to busying insects. There is always more countryside, more space, it seems, when viewed from the air – acres of land that we are not aware of when on the ground.
As we went higher, I slowed down. People and the small scurrying movements were no longer visible, just the twinkling lights of cities. It’s strange to just have the sound of the plane and the murmur of passengers’ conversations whilst watching a whole country spread out beneath you – like watching a movie on mute.
There are so many people in the world, living their lives while God watches.
We were above it all, and now into clouds, white and soothing.
This is the in-between.
When we landed, there would once again be a flurry and frenzy. For now, everything was still. We were journeying, but in a place of quiet and stillness.
This is the value of a retreat. It is not the destination, and we do not spend our lives there. It is the in-between. A retreat is a journey in quiet and stillness, a reminder that we are halfway to heaven. It is the chance to leave some of the baggage we have been carrying, to view our lives from above, at a distance, to see the whole world and reflect on the creator who holds it.
Whenever I go on holiday or retreat, it feels like this: I am slowed down, I can see the busy-ness of life with greater clarity. We can inspect our life with a birds-eye view: there are more fields, there is more space than we realised. It’s hard to spend forever in the in-between, but for a short spell, it is life-giving. We are living, but not as we were.
We can close our eyes, we can exhale.
We can watch the clouds and think on the glory of our Redeemer.
We can listen for the whisper of God, and pray that we might see our lives through His eyes.
A version of this post was first published in 2012.
“There are times when life is a whirlwind and we are whirling within it.” NEW post by @Tanya_Marlow A Better View:
“There are so many people in the world, living their lives while God watches.” NEW by @Tanya_Marlow A Better View:
“A retreat is a journey in quiet and stillness, a reminder that we are halfway to heaven.” NEW from @Tanya_Marlow:
Over to you:
- How have retreats and holidays helped you see life from a different perspective?
- Reflecting on the size of the world helps me to remember God as creator and sustainer. What things help you to reflect on the nature of God?