In my "spare" time, I am a volunteer coach for Girls on the Run. If you don't know about it, it's an amazing program for girls in 3rd-6th grades. It's not just about helping them train to run a 5k, but about teaching them to have a positive sense of self worth and helping them celebrate their unique gifts and talents. In the two or three hours a week that I spend with these girls, I'm constantly amazed by them and what they have to teach me.
I was caught completely off guard at our last session. I read the curriculum for that day and it told me that the topic for the day was celebrating gratitude. "That's lovely", I thought to myself. But when the handy-dandy book instructed me to have the girls run or walk for 40 minutes in complete silence without even walking next to someone else (so that they could have time to think about the things for which they were grateful), I expected to have a mutiny on my hands. Our little darlings are social butterflies. Sometimes they are so chatty that we have a hard time getting them to settle down. But what happened that day amazed me. Each girl did exactly what we asked of her, even the ones who sometimes have a hard time following directions. Each girl set off at her own pace, and seemed to be completely at peace walking or running on such a beautiful day. There was no peer pressure. The ones who often seem to be distracted were completely focused. And without exception, every girl finished more laps than she had ever done before. When we talked with them again at the end of the session, most of them expressed how much they enjoyed that time, and how it was easier for them to achieve their goal when they were in their own zone.
I know I need solitude-- that's the curse of being an introvert. But I wasn't aware of just how noisy their worlds seem to be. Maybe that's one of the greatest needs of our soul: to be silent and still, and to have a chance to hear the whisper of God.
"Graceland" is the name of my favorite song and album. It's by Paul Simon, but more importantly, it's what "home" sounds and feels like to me. We always listened to this album as we traveled from my home in Tennessee to my parents' childhood homes in Florida. But today, it's also a pretty good snapshot of my theology. Somewhere I really believe that the Christian journey is all about a wild trip to Grace-land. As I see it, Grace-land is the place where God is waiting to meet even us–with all the baggage and brokeness that we tote with us. Grace-land is the place where we will be received with open arms, even though our attempts at “getting it right” have been miserable failures at best. But, I think, every step we take is a step on the journey to Graceland.