It’s strange really, given the way of prayer I've been talking about here and here, that there’s still a nearly universal temptation for those of us who seek God to try to ascend a spiritual path, climb a mountain, find a remote monastery or retreat center, and escape the insanity of our lives for awhile. Look, I know as well as anyone that such an escape can be helpful—Jesus himself withdrew from the press and pull of city life to enjoy some spiritual respite away from it all. And he invited his disciples to join him.

So we too must occasionally break from the noise and clutter, the responsibilities and commitments—all that holds us captive and renders us numb and deaf to the presence of God. We too must periodically flee from what can keep us cold to the Beloved’s subtle courtship of our affections. We too must break from what can blind us to the pain within us and harden us against the suffering outside us. Our pain and suffering, given the space to face it bravely and attentively, can awaken love in our hearts and compassion in our hands. Without an occasional break we can too easily become captives to ways of living that not only aren’t helpful, they’re not holy.

Continued . . .