My wife Carolyn and I try to get away to be with each other every three months or so. These “getaways” often coincide with a birthday or anniversary but not always. We usually arrive around noon and leave the next afternoon. We always hope to arrive sooner but necessities and demands prevent that. This does not sound like much time away and we would prefer longer but we always seem to leave feeling refreshed, renewed, and reconnected; not a bad outcome. The place we visit is a retreat house called “Quiet Place” in rural Garrard County near Lancaster, Ky. We have been doing this for several years now and we are so thankful for this place of retreat that Rick and Teresa Jenkins provide for ministers, pastors, and other Christian care givers. Rick and Teresa serve the servers. I don't know where they retreat but Quiet Place has become an invaluable tool for reconnection with the Lord and one another.
While visiting there this time I read from Conversations (www.conversationsjournal.com), a Christian journal about spiritual transformation. They provide a forum of “spiritual accompaniment and honest dialogue for authentic transformation.” Living in a culture that offers mostly sound bites of phantom promises that disguise other agendas something solid like real change is appealing;we all hunger for the real. Consider the woman in the Gospels who met Jesus at the well; with several relationships she obviously struggled with figuring out who she was and what she wanted and when she encountered the real she immediately changed her life, now that is transformation.
An article by Michael Glerup, who writes on “ancient christian wisdom for a postmodern age”, discussed change as defined by Gregory of Nyssa, an Orthodox Bishop from the fourth century who lived in what is now Turkey. Gregory said that change happens in one of two directions, for good or for ill. Change for ill is that which is cyclic and repetitive so that nothing really lasts or satisfies. We reach a state of temporary satisfaction that depletes, like eating food, and we have to do it all over again and again and again. Change for good is that which helps us progress in capacity, in our ability to grow and receive more. It is something that satisfies, that brings a fullness that lasts. Change for ill leaves us always hungering for more, change for good leaves us satisfied knowing that there is more, and so we are content.
While there is much more to Gregory's view on transformation (Conversations, Vol.8.1) his understanding of the cyclic, repetitive, empty change is what we see in struggling couple's arguments (not to mention the stock market and economic cycles). Their argument cycle is a repetitive one and it is the same over and over again. They keep coming back to it because a deeper hunger is never satisfied, it is like playing a roulette wheel, the ball gets thrown and you watch it spin hoping it lands in the right place. It rarely does and with repetitive cycles it never does. The insanity is that we believe we are going to win next time.
Becoming aware of our deeper hunger(s) is critical to orienting our selves toward what is Good. The difficult thing for most us is to begin to trust, to believe that their really is something solid and real and good that can meet our deepest longing. Receiving an experience of that, whether during a counseling session or a meeting at the well gives hope that real satisfaction is possible. Couples that become aware of their own and their mates true longing and move to meet that is what breaks the repetitive argument cycle and brings peace to the relationship.
While the time at Quiet Place is never quite long enough for Carolyn and I and we leave yearning to stay in a place of rest and quiet and connection, we know this peace is real and we can experience it again. I think that is something like the hope of heaven.