The phone is unplugged, the cell phone switched off, and the doorbell unheeded.
It was a wise man who challenged me to prioritize this monthly mini-retreat. Indeed, he walked me through it the first time, with an hour focused on God, an hour of prayer for others, then an hour of prayer for ourselves. Simple. So why is it so hard? But oh, it is worth it!
On this particular morning, having praised God and interceded for others, it is now time to pray for myself. I record these words in my journal.
I’m at the cusp of a new stage of life here in this new community. Lord, give me your direction, I beg.
I jot down the headings ‘work,’ ‘social life,’ and ‘hobbies’ in my journal. Where should I begin? An inner voice prompts me. Give your apartment a name.
But I have more important decisions to make. Yet the thought persists. In the holy atmosphere of my distraction-denuded living room, I inquire of the Lord. What would you have me name this apartment, Lord?
Where did that come from? I know that ‘Meribah’ means ‘quarreling.’ With a sigh of resignation, I pick up the Bible and turn to Numbers 20.
The people were tired, irritable and depressed, and no wonder. All their lives, they had wandered in the desert. They were on the edge of the Promised Land, yet nothing seemed to be happening.
Then they were dealt another bitter blow. Not only were they desperate for water, but their beloved matriarch, Miriam, was taken from them in death. The people were heart-broken. And thirsty. Very thirsty.
Moses and Aaron, grief-stricken and desperate for water themselves, went out of the camp to the ‘Tent of Meeting.’ As in times past, the people stood outside their tents and watched as the Glory of the Lord descended. Moses and Aaron dropped to their faces in awe.
Eventually, the two elderly leaders returned. The people started chanting, Give us water.
Moses’ face reddened. What do I have to do to satisfy you whiners? Do I have to hit this rock?
Taking his well-worn holy staff, Moses gave the towering rock a resounding and very un-holy ‘thwack.’ Life-giving water flowed out of the stone. With shouts of joy, the people and animals alike fell to their knees and slurped from the fast-flowing stream. Only Moses and Aaron stood back, shoulders slumped and faces somber. Aaron spoke first.
You were meant to speak to the rock, Moses, not hit it.
I know. The Lord Himself showed His holiness today, and the people will remember it for generations. But I have not upheld His holiness. My temper has cost us dearly.
You are right there, brother. Because of your outburst, you and I will soon join Miriam in death. We will not see the Promised Land.
A tear slipped down the deep crease radiating from the old man’s eye.
They renamed that place ‘Meribah,’ meaning ‘quarreling.’ It was a turning point for the Israelites. Within a year, Aaron would symbolically take off his priestly robes and put them on his son, and then die. Moses would give his magnificent farewell speech, institute Joshua as leader, and dramatically walk up Mount Nebo, never to be seen again. The people would fight battles like they had never experienced before. In doing so, they would claim the Promised Land as their own.
A knock at my door jerks my thoughts back to the present. Remaining still and silent, I ignore it, and again consider the name ‘Meribah’ for my apartment.
At Meribah, although in less than ideal circumstances, God showed Himself holy.
I want His holiness to be seen in my home too.
At Meribah, the people had a major change of direction. I too am on the cusp of something new.
After leaving Meribah, the Israelites faced many battles. I hate conflict, but realistically I know that if I am to play a part in expanding God’s kingdom, spiritual warfare is unavoidable.
The three hours of my mini-retreat are over. I reconnect the phone and quietly open and then loudly close the door to alert my neighbors that I am now ‘at home.’ Once again, I head into ‘the world’ refreshed and re-focused. It is time to start using God’s rich provision of my home to benefit others. To radiate God’s holiness. And to offer hope.
Meribah. I would never given my home a name like that without having been ‘given it’ through a focused time of prayer. I had planned to ask God’s direction for life, but instead had simply been given the assurance that He is directing my life. He sets the agenda in these times of prayer.
A monthly three-hour prayer time is not easy. But it is worth the effort!