If there is one thing I love about summer vacation it is the way it opens up space.
The hectic pace and stimuli of modern society fills our time. It overwhelms our senses. It leaves little room to experience the new, or even to see and hear what may be all around us. It may leave us with little time and space to pay attention—even to things that may be interesting or meaningful or significant.
For me, stepping out of the day-to-day—even for a short time—provides an opening to reflect, to reconnect to a fuller view of life, to attune to the spiritual and to renew strength for living in a way that pays attention to what’s important.
This past weekend, my family camped at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. We had never been there before, and with travel outside Alberta not recommended, we now had the opportunity to visit a place we had always wanted to see.
It was fascinating to walk through the hoodoos and see the petroglyphs—ancient etchings on the rock, there to provide spiritual guidance for those attuned to their message. They provide evidence to the history of a people largely ignored by society. It is a story of a people that have been largely forced to the margins.
I thought about this reality as I stared up at the stars of night—so much more plentiful than I ever see in the washed out sky above my Edmonton home. I thought about it again as I awoke in my tent to the sound of numerous bird calls, without the normal traffic noise of the city to drown out all but the loudest, boldest, and (at times, such as 4 a.m. on a summer morning) potentially most annoying.
It struck me, again, how easy it is in our modern world for amazing sights to be overlooked and voices to be overwhelmed.
Given this reality, it is reassuring to know our God is a God who sees and hears. Scriptures emphasize how God knows each one of us, even when we feel overwhelmed by the world around us. Our Bible is full of examples where God sees those in need, hears their cries, and responds. It’s a reality we may easily forget when we feel lost, unheard or even burdened by the weight of daily life.
For me, opening a space for connection with the spiritual allows me to live into that assurance more fully.
It also allows me to accept the challenge inherent in God’s eye and ear for the marginalized. How do I respond to those whom society fails to see and hear? Today the voices of the Indigenous, Black, and people of colour have broken through in a new way. How might this breakthrough lead to lasting change, the type of change that makes our world a better place for all? How might I align myself to hear and see, given the way Jesus saw and heard those on the margins in his day?
A week from now my “vacation space” will come to a close with a return to “normal” life. How do I bring my experience “home”? How do I ensure I continue to have space to see and hear?
I look forward to the challenge—and the importance.
Tim Wiebe-Neufeld is the executive minister for Mennonite Church Alberta. This reflection originally appeared in the Aug. 12, 2020 edition of The MCA Communiqué, MC Alberta’s weekly e-newsletter.