Encountering God in my humanity
Last weekend I went to Camp DeWolfe for the Listening to God Retreat. Pulling up to Benson House was like a homecoming. Two years ago, I served as the Christian Formation director and spent the summer tucked away in the houses’ warm red wood planks. In-between sessions, I would do lesson plans as kids played in the pool outside my window. Sometimes I would prop up on the back porch, only to discover kids straggling by on rouge scavenger hunts.
This weekend was slightly different in nature. A small group of us gathered to be led by Fr. Joe, a Catholic Priest from Brooklyn, in experiencing God’s presence through our senses. We stepped out of the noise and clutter of our lives into a quiet, contemplative space. Throughout the weekend we got reacquainted with our physical senses—sight, touch, smell, taste, sound. And awakened our inner senses that often get buried—emotions, intuition, faith, memory.
Half way through the weekend, I couldn’t help but notice each session pointed back to our vulnerability. We encounter God in the here and now—our fleshy bodies and imperfect realities. We encounter God in the Son—who set aside strength and power to become a fragile baby. And we meet Jesus in the ordinary aspects, and fullness of, his humanity. He ate meals with friends, felt the cool water of baptism, bled blood and bore wounds. At times he was overcome with anger, at other times he wept. He did not shrink away from his earthly experience; he entered in.
His example invites us to do the same. It invites us to enter into our own humanity, to know our vulnerability, as a way of realizing our full dependence on God. This leads to a divine reciprocity—together we receive from God and give to one another. Together we walk this flesh and blood journey, deeper into the incarnate heart of God.
Before taking the Eucharist with a visiting priest from the diocese, I snuck down to the beach. I carefully descended the steep stairs covered in ice and framed in snow. The bare tree branches were starkly silhouetted. When I looked down at the shore I saw it laid out in strips—snow, sand, water darkening into deeper blues until it reached the horizon line. A native southern Californian, I never considered the possibility of snow on sand. As I walked along the quiet stretch, I realized I never considered the option of snow in seashells. I never considered the bright light of snow reflecting on the underside of seagull’s wings. I was delighted.
When we gathered in the chapel to receive Christ’s body and blood, the priest filled our palms with layers of wafers. They snapped like bones as I bit into several mouthfuls. I listened, I tasted. I saw the people standing in a loose circle around me. I felt the God of mystery and unusual parings and ordinary revelations entering into my experience. I perceived God fully knowing my journey, and fully making my journey known to me. I remembered the sweet liberation of dependence on God.
I left Camp DeWolfe, covered in snow, hoping to return in another season. Perhaps when kids are running wild, still wet from adventurous swims in the ocean. Perhaps when the ice has melted exposing the lush trail underneath. When the sights, sounds, and emotions evoke the memory still stored in my bones. The path of knowing God leads us deeper into our own humanity—and our senses take us there.
-By Christina Miller (Camp Alumni)