Tanya Marlow is passionate about teaching the Bible, answering tricky questions of faith and training others to do this. In the past she has done this in student and church ministry and as Associate Director of the Peninsula Gospel Partnership (PGP) Bible training course in the UK. Right now she does it by reading Bible stories to her gorgeous toddler, as she learns what it means to be a stay-at-home mum who is also currently housebound with an autoimmune illness. Her blog, Thorns and Gold, can be found at http://tanyamarlow.com where she writes about many things, but mainly the Bible, suffering, and the messy edges of life. We sat back in the airplane seats and exhaled, half- triumphantly, half-exhaustedly. We had done it - somehow we had managed to get a suitcase, a rucksack, a disabled and chronically ill wife (me), a restless toddler and an exhausted husband onto the flight. Below us, we could see them throwing the bags onto the plane with a certain degree of carelessness. We felt the relief of no longer having anything to carry.
My mind ran over the chaos of the past few days: the packing, the writing of lists, the resting in preparation, the phone calls, the last-minute shopping for essentials, the researching of the symptoms of sunstroke in under-fives, the rush of the deadline to finish remaining work.
There are times when life is a whirlwind and we are whirling within it. Our days had been full of flurry and preparation and whirlwind and now we sat, waiting.
The plane took off, and I just watched the landscape change from the window. With a sleeping toddler on my lap, there wasn't much else to do. People, cars, trains, were reduced to busying insects. There is always more countryside, more space, it seems, when viewed from the air - acres of land that I am not aware of when on the ground.
As we went higher I seemed to slow down. People and the small scurrying movements were no longer visible, just the twinkling lights of cities. It's strange to just have the sound of the plane and the murmur of passengers' conversations whilst watching a whole country spread out beneath you - like watching a movie on mute.
There are so many people in the world, living their lives while God watches.
We were above it all, and now into clouds, white and soothing.
This is the in-between.
When we landed, there would once again be a flurry and frenzy. For now, everything was still. We were journeying, but in a place of quiet and stillness.
This is the value of a retreat. It is not the destination, and we do not spend our lives there. It is the in-between. It is a journey in quiet and stillness. It is the chance to leave some of the baggage we have been carrying, to view our lives from above, at a distance, to see the whole world and reflect on the creator who holds it.
We can close our eyes, we can exhale. We can watch the clouds and think on the glory of our Redeemer. We can listen for the whisper of God and pray that we might see our lives through His eyes.
Over to you: How have retreats helped you see life from a different perspective? Reflecting on the size of the world helps me to remember God as creator and sustainer. What things help you to reflect on the nature of God?