Jacob was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” – Genesis 28:17 (NRSV)
We woke up Sunday morning, a roomful of adults who had slept on the floor of a martial arts studio during a rigorous spiritual retreat, and saw a near-blizzard out the windows. We were supposed to drive half an hour to coastal Fort Williams Park, where we would meet the retreat leader, who had gone home to sleep in his own bed. Even in Maine, had it been a weekday, non-essential workers would have been warned to stay home.
The retreat leader exerted a powerful influence on the group, however, even from his house (which was, I might add, close to the park). Although I began to wonder why I had signed up for this, for the rest of the group the pilgrimage to meet him felt essential. I had volunteered to drive, which still felt like a marginally better choice than trusting someone else, and I delivered the group safely just as the snow stopped falling.
Each of us had brought a symbol of something we were ready to leave behind. Find a place near the water, our leader said, and throw it into the ocean.
The group dispersed, and I walked through the snow to the small, rocky beach. At the edge of the water, I considered the wedding ring in my coat pocket. My divorce was new and strange; I was looking for new connections, but I didn’t like these people very much.
A sound of crackling took my attention, and I looked down. Tiny stones, disturbed by the icy tide, sang a winter song, ancient and essential. God was with me, even when I did not know it.
Holy One, for crackling rocks at the gate of heaven, we praise you. Amen.