Stay Close to Him
Several years ago I attended my first weekend silent retreat with a small group from my church. We held our retreat at the Abbey of the Genesee in New York, a community of monks who dedicate themselves to the contemplative life of worship in silence and solitude from the outside world. While at the abbey we were invited to share in as much or little of the monastic life as we desired which included five daily times of prayer and chanting of the Psalms held in their chapel.
It was while walking to the abbey to take in one of the monks’ prayer times that God used the walk to have a bible verse spring to life! The monks have a 2:25am (yes 2:25 in the morning!!) reading of the Psalms called Vigils. On our first night I decided to take in that experience. I set my alarm for 2am and headed out for the twenty-minute walk from our house to the abbey. I was alone in darkness with only my flashlight. Seeing the pitch black night sky full of twinkling stars was an indescribable MASTERPIECE God gifted me in that moment! The walk, filled with night sounds of crickets, grasshoppers and other mystery sounds, was SOOTHING to my soul. As I walked – I soaked in God’s beauty like a sponge. PEACE filled me as I entered the chapel for Vigils.
As the service ended, I met up with fellow traveler, Ron, who had also made his way quietly to attend Vigils. Ron and I walked back together, yet alone – each in our own silence. Each with our own flashlight – the only light we had to guide us through our total darkness. Little did I know God would use Ron to illustrate how he guides us!
As I paused on our walk to admire once again the stunning night sky, Ron ended up ahead of me by several steps. As he walked the path in front of me, lit only by his flashlight, all else was total darkness. I turned off my flashlight and saw this image:
It was in that moment this bible verse came to mind from Psalm 119:105:
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
I’ve always loved that image of scripture because so often I want God to show me the way using big stadium lights and huge, can’t miss signs complete with flashing neon arrows – a path well lit and planned out – where I have no doubt which way to go. However, in reality, God often gives me a lamp light – a next step, and I have to have faith and trust in God’s plan for me when I live in those places of fear and unknowing of the larger plan.
I turned off my flashlight. Darkness surrounded me. Our destination was FAR ahead with complete darkness and only Ron’s light before me. At one point I could see the faint light of our destination WAY off in the distance, but between me and this goal were twists, turns, hills and rocky surfaces.
So - I FOLLOWED – wherever Ron’s light led me – I FOLLOWED. Sometimes the pace was steady; sometimes it slowed; and at times was faster – but ALWAYS it was BEST when I stayed NEAR.
When I went at MY OWN PACE (followed my own agenda) I lost pace with Ron’s guiding light and had to work harder to get back on track, to get back to his light and path – otherwise I was LOST. At times the path changed direction, was steeper or more uneven, and it was even more important for me to WALK CLOSER to follow the light so as not to lose my footing and stumble.
And when I stayed closer to him, I felt more comfortable, SAFE – especially in the dark of night. As I followed the whole way home, I felt PROTECTED through the strength, pace, and confidence of Ron and his light. No fear, just DELIGHTING IN THE CLOSENESS.
I was in awe once more how God provides teachable moments when we least expect them. A bible verse “came to life” to teach me the importance of staying closely connected to him at all times. What a blessing a 3AM walk became with my special traveling companions!
[Abbey of the Genesee: www.abbeyretreats.org]
Becky Zatezalo is married and the mother of two adult children. She received her Certificate in Formational Prayer in 2015 after experiencing her deep dive with God and the transforming power of inner healing prayer that began in 2013. Becky currently serves as an advisor for the certificate program and leads a Healing Care Ministry as part of her position as Director of Adult Discipleship at Strongsville United Methodist Church near Cleveland, Ohio. Her heart finds joy in walking alongside others helping them experience Jesus’ love, healing and freedom.