There is something about the grandeur of Colorado’s mountains, about the expansiveness of the sky here, and the vastness of the deserts that humbles a person. The majesty of Creation calls us to slow down, give thanks to God for the beauty of this world, and then reflect on how small we individual human beings really are. Perhaps out of fear that I would miss them too much, I think I’ve suppressed memories of Colorado’s beauty since we moved to Pittsburgh over three years ago. In the process I’ve forgotten the awe and humility they inspire.
We’re at the second to last day of our Company of New Pastors retreat in Estes Park, CO. A good portion of our time spent together so far has been in guided journaling, recalling the ways God’s providence has been evident in our lives. The first thing I was surprised to discover in journaling was how much I’ve forgottenthe times when God’s grace has shown up most clearly in my life. I tend to focus so much on thinking of the future that I forget what God has already brought me through. Remembering the signs of grace that I experienced in my life before moving to Pittsburgh has likewise been humbling, yet liberating. For example, I recall one day in 2003 when I sat on the patio of the UMC at the University of Colorado, basking in sunshine, staring at the Flatirons, listening on my discman to Derek Webb’s song “Wedding Dress.” I was overwhelmed by grace in that experience of God’s unconditional love – it was a moment when I felt secure in my identity in Christ, a beloved child of God, redeemed and given new life to serve Christ.
That’s a feeling I’ve rarely felt since, but have been reminded of through this retreat and the rest of our week in Colorado. I’m learning that (as BJ’s charge at my ordination service says) it sometimes requires solitude to remember that identity in Christ, as well as humility. As we leave to go back to Pittsburgh tomorrow – where we’ll dive immediately into the busy-ness of ministry with Saturday’s prayer service, work at 61C, and a sermon to preach at another church on Sunday – I’m resolving to seek ways of deliberately remembering God’s grace on a regular basis. A minister of the Gospel can’t afford to forget the ways the Gospel has been made manifest in one’s own life.