"Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near."
What is the difference between a resort and a retreat? Obviously resorts and retreats have refreshment in common. One may be less spiritual than the other (possibly) but both offer the gift of time and space other than the quotidian, the regular.
Many people love resorts and retreats, but find that they get home all too quickly. "What vacation?" people will say when they return. The pull of the ordinary and the daily is strong. Our habits often preclude the holy.
What might be different for those who have "gone away" and come back only to find themselves unchanged? We might learn better the art of leaving and the habit of returning. I love the Jewish practice of a mezuzah, an ornament placed on a door. As you go out in the morning, you are to touch it and give thanks for your threshold. As you return in the evening, you are to touch it and give thanks for your threshold. You leave and return as the same person but in the touching of a simple object, you pause for a moment of appreciation.
Resorts and retreats work when they produce refreshment, even if only for a few brief days. They work longer if they carry the promise of broken habits. What is our worst habit? It is the habit that prohibits pause. It is the habit that is all action without reflection. It is the skating the surface when the power of depth and appreciation are right there at our doorstep.
When the scripture says "Dust off your feet" when you leave a place, it is giving a lesson in living, so simple that even the most ordinary person can do it. When you leave in the morning, dust off your feet. When you return in the evening, dust off your feet. Don't keep the non-essentials with you. Observe them. Pause to observe them. And give thanks for the day and its constant permanent habitual sense of a threshold.
God who shows up at resorts and retreats and in mezuzahs, keep reminding us that we are a people in motion, ever dusty, and ever daily, ever going out and ever coming in to ourselves and to you. Refresh us, as though that was what you had in mind all along. Amen.
About the Author
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Check out her blog, Grace at Table, at donnaschaper.com.