Closed for Repairs, Do Not Enter!

You can listen by clicking the arrow below or subscribe to “The Water Jar” podcast via iTunes or Stitcher. If you’d rather read the reflection, keep scrolling for the full transcript.

My family and I live near a high school, and my children like to ride their bikes over to the school when the parking lots are empty. Turns out a landscape of blacktop and wide open spaces is quite the draw for a few youngsters ready to test out their ever-developing bicycling skills. On a recent trip over to the school, I accompanied my children. Me on foot, they on bike. 

As I walked, I came to the high school’s track and spotted a large piece of plywood that had been made into a makeshift sign blocking the entrance into the track. In large spray-painted black words the sign read, “CLOSED FOR TRACK REPAIR. DO NOT ENTER.” I didn’t think anything of it at first. I continued walking and came upon a second sign. Same message, “CLOSED FOR TRACK REPAIR. DO NOT ENTER.” I continued walking and came upon a third and final sign reading, you guessed it, “CLOSED FOR TRACK REPAIR. DO NOT ENTER.”

When I see or hear a message three times, I’ve come to learn there’s typically something bigger going on – a sign (pun intended) to pay attention. So I started pondering that message, “CLOSED FOR TRACK REPAIR. DO NOT ENTER.” As I mulled over the words, I felt a message placed on my heart that said: “It’s good for you to close yourself off for repairs, too.” 

As I thought about it, I actually became a little irritated. You see, my annual three-day silent retreat I was scheduled to attend this coming week was canceled due to Covid. I was sulking a bit. Kind of hard to close myself for repairs, Lord, when I can’t get away.   

I thought about it some more and was reminded of the great prophet Elijah. From the first Book of Kings chapter 19 we journey with Elijah up the holy mountain of Horeb where he goes to be closer to God in the solitude. Kind of like going on a three-day retreat. Surely if God is going to appear, it would be in a dramatic way right? On that mountain, or in a retreat. Elijah experiences a great wind. No God in the wind. Then an earthquake hits. No God in the earthquake. What about a great forest fire? No, the Lord was not in the fire. But because Elijah was a man of God, when the Lord did come to him in a tiny whispering sound at the entrance of the cave, Elijah was aware of God’s presence. God was with him. 

Like Elijah, most of us need to go from time to time into that cave on the mountain of God, that place of quiet. But finding that place of quiet might prove to be a bit difficult for some right now. For me, my children are perpetually early to rise, yet late to bed. My husband and I are both trying to work from home while managing the house. It’s often my messy, embarrassingly unorganized closet where I go to find just five minutes of quiet these days.

Just as our Lord performed miracles with five loaves and two fish, I trust He can take even five minutes from a messy closet and multiply my efforts far beyond anything I can imagine.  

Popular author Seth Godin once wrote, “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” While I bemoan the cancellation of my annual retreat, I know that white-knuckling it from one retreat to the next year after year, waiting for that big powerful moment with God to happen, isn’t how we’re meant to live. 

As for me, I need to occasionally “close for repairs,” to quiet my mind and heart … and just listen. Like Elijah, the Lord might not come to me in a thunderclap of a weekend retreat, but He might come in the still small voice amidst the chaos of everyday life. But how do I quiet my mind and heart in these every day moments? That is still a work in progress. 

Let’s ponder together: How do you close down for repairs? What does that look like for you? Let’s help each other grow in holiness and share your good ideas below.

Lisa Schmidt is a proud lifelong Iowan and an equally proud alumna of Iowa State University. #GoCyclones! Her roots serve as an inspiration to continually seek opportunities to help make Iowa a great place to live, work, pray, and play. In 2016, Lisa blended her skills for building community with her love for Jesus and founded The Well women’s ministry. Along with her husband Deacon Joel and their four children, the Schmidts are parishioners at St. Pius X in Urbandale, Iowa.