Last Saturday I intended to follow some pattern from Pete Greig and take a much needed one day retreat. These last few weeks at work have been heavy and the crunch at the end of last semester has had me all but burned out. I planned this retreat almost a month before I took it and it came at a most needed time.
Almost before it started it began to feel threatened. My partner recently moved to the same city as me and I knew my only day off was valuable time with him but I also knew I needed this time with Jesus. I was thinking in a false dichotomy that I couldn’t have both so I invited my partner in on some time of rest and get-away. This time quickly seemed to come under attack as well though. The cafe we walked to was busy, noisy and far from the type place I was looking to open some spiritual reading, bible and journal. My partner wasn’t reacting well to the environment either and was showing visible irritation that I couldn’t ignore. I was trying to make it work but it wasn’t working.
I wrongly wanted to shift into blame. It was my partner’s lack of patience that ruined the afternoon. It was the cafe’s poor atmosphere, it was the business of the city that I couldn’t get way from and on and on. Blame is a loud mouth of accusation; blame is satanic. Interesting, my partner mentioned on our way home that he felt like he was being spiritually attacked. I took the cue at face value and tried to fix it but it wasn’t working.
Later in the afternoon, about dusk, I decided I needed to get some space for myself and recover the retreat I planned earlier. I walked to an izakaya (pub) two bridges down the river from my home and found it closed. It was opening in a half hour so I opened my book and began to read. I was invited in and ordered a drink and kept reading. These words grabbed my heart brought conviction and invitation.
Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.Proverbs 11:11, NIV
I was brought back to a scene in 2011 where I was visiting a friend’s church and heard a sermon on this verse. I was just about to move to Nagasaki then and I remember the sermon dripping with various kinds of wisdom that seemed to bring key revelation to prepare me for going to Nagasaki. The words pulled me back to that time of revelation and pulled me out of the negative litany of voices that I had begun to often spin in my head or mutter under my breath.
“By the mouth of the wicked a city is destroyed.” Do I want to speak death over the city I live in just because its been hard? What good will come of that? It will only spoil me and bring destruction to the city. Have I forgotten why I have come? Have I forgotten that Jesus weeps over the city? Have I forgotten that life and death resides in the power of the tongue? There in the casual space of that bar I began to have a moment of true and deep repentance. I began to see that I can speak blessing over the city, over coffee shops, over my job, over my partner, over my cooking pots. I don’t need to mutter the sour words of the wicked but can bless everything in my life because all of life is holy, all of life is spiritual, and God is looking for, preparing a world for full inhabitation by inhabiting a kingdom of priests.
“Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted.” And I should seek the prosperity of the city I live in. Though I may be in a kind of exile I am also coming into a new home. While I have been sent by the church I am sent as one to live among. I will not forsake this priestly calling to bless the city, to bless those I live among, to bless car and pedestrian, street and building. God bless Kumamoto, God bless this school, bless my friends, bless the strangers around me, the students preparing, my co-workers going home, bless the one’s I love most, bless my home, bless my pots and glasses. Bless my socks off, and may I be blessed to be a blessing through Jesus Christ, Amen.