Near the end of an unusually busy time a few years ago, I decided to splurge on a Florida getaway in late November. Palm Beach County was the logical destination—not for the “lifestyles of the rich and famous” that the area is known for, but because I’d lived there (in the poor section of the county) for seven years after college. The terrain was familiar; I could navigate the area, knew the best beaches and quiet spots.
Wanting nurture and quiet for my weary body and mind, I booked myself into a Catholic retreat center. I thought that being in a place where women lived, prayed, and worshipped together would do me good. I also opted for visits with one of the nuns, who for an hour each day companioned my soul on this do-it-myself retreat. With no other activities scheduled at the retreat center, I could revisit favorite places and relax into the solitude.
Although I had planned three delicious days of nothing, my mind was busily trying to create a schedule, a to-do list, small problems to solve. When shall I go to the museum? Are the garden benches dry enough after the rain to sit outside now? I’d spent the year being so productive that I was startled to hear Sister Margaret tell me that I could just rest in God’s love, on God’s lap.
I’d forgotten how to do that. Rest? In God’s love? Not with deadlines and meetings, with household chores and Sunday School lessons to plan.
That first morning I woke earlier than usual, breakfasted alone, joined the sisters for morning prayer, and headed for the beach. Driving along the Atlantic Ocean looking for a place to park, I spotted a sign to my left. “Beach access closed for renourishment” it said, and my soul cried out, Me too!
After parking further down the road, I walked along the shore. All of the forgotten sensory details came rushing back: the sound of surf beating on the sand and of sandpipers calling, the way the ocean changes color, all the shades of blue in sky and sea. The good crunchy massage of the shells and gritty sand on my winter-tender feet, and cool water covering those feet. The smell of cocoa butter in my sunscreen.
I went away to be renourished. The office was closed. I was not less fragile than the beach’s ecosystem, however much my busy brain wanted me to think otherwise. I needed time to allow what had been trampled by overuse to spring back to health, to let the shy new tendrils come up safely. To follow the call of Jesus to “come aside and rest for awhile.”