I recently returned from a spiritual formation hike with the staff of Ruimsig church. They asked me to facilitate a team building and spiritual formation retreat for them and I proposed that we get our bodies outside. So we went to the wilderness of the Drakensberg and hiked onto the roof of South Africa – the escarpment above the amphitheater. This wilderness theater proved to be fertile ground for experiences with God while we hiked in this undomesticated space.
I am more convinced than ever that our domestication of God has a huge correlation with the buildings we construct our theologies in. We create a comfortable air-conditioned God in the same comfortable air-conditioned buildings.
When we ascended the mountain we met a holy man. His name is Thomas and he hiked up the mountain to pray. On his own. Seeking God in prayers and supplication. Fervently. We hiked with our sophisticated gear, he walked with a small bag slung over his shoulders. Simplicity. We slept in tents designed to weather any storm. Thomas slept in CrowsNest cave. Flexibility. All the time singing and praying. With outstretched arms he sought God. Earnestly. “I pray for rain”, he said. I was supposed to facilitate a spiritual formation experience; Thomas lived it.
In the person of Thomas I recognized a certain longing – a desire. A flickering. On Tuesday morning i woke at 4:30 and when I gazed towards his cave I saw a fire burning. Thomas was already praying. Inspiration. As the sun rose Thomas prayed with outstretched arms. As we left the mountain for Johannesburg he asked me for a Bible. He wanted to read more so that he could animate his faith further. Thomas was one of the ways in which I met God on the mountain. He embodied my longing.