A Place to Be Still

Finding the Waiting God

By Fr. Donald Kill

There is something about life on an island. The past number of years I’ve been blessed to spend three weeks on an island called Negros Oriental. Every year after the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, I pack up my bag and my books and head out.

It is not an easy journey. It is just over a three hour journey to the place where I catch the ferry. Boarding the ferry, I stand on the back of the rocking vessel as it slices through whitecaps and salt-tinged air and watch as the coast of northern Mindanao fades away. It is always a bit startling to find myself in the middle of the ocean, as the land fades into the distance. From horizon to horizon is now only water.

Then slowly, after about four hours or so, a small tip of land emerges in the midst of a vast blue pool. It is still an hour to the dock, but the buzz on the boat builds as we get closer and closer to the dock. Upon arrival at the port the ferry maneuvers itself up to the dock and we land lubbers then jockey to get down to our vehicles and off of the ferry. When I finally feel the tires touch land again I know the sweet knowledge that, at least for awhile, I’ve left, gone, departed, exited, vamoosed, left home and work behind. There are no quick jaunts over a bridge to get back. No quick turnaround.

It took awhile to get here. I’ll stay now for quite a while. For the next three weeks, days and nights, my world is contained in a small white house in a small development, set off from the main road, with the road/ path to the beach right out front. A special place where my cell phone doesn’t always have a signal, or better yet, I turn it off. I do not subscribe to the newspaper. It is a place where there is television, but only if I want it and no landline phone. The sea breeze can cool down even the hottest of afternoons. My assortment of books awaits me.

Days are filled with rides to the beach and walks along it, sporting my cane, and browsing the wonders God has sent up from the depths of the sea: shells of myriad dimensions, beautifully ground shards of broken glass, limbs of trees dried and twisted during their journey. Evenings mean dinner off the grill or a pizza brought in. Later there’s time for raucous board games with friends and family around a far too small dining room table. There is no set time to go to bed or to wake up either.

I am away. That is what I love most about island life: being really, truly, fully, away. All humans desperately need these “away” times: regular and consistent “white space” to sleep and to pray, to sit and to be silent, to listen and spend time with loved ones, to finally just rest and just be. My away escape is an island. What is yours? Is it a lonely cabin in lush green mountains, a tent by the seashore, a hotel room downtown, or a hammock in the back yard?

Place matters less than space: whatever we do or where ever we go away, we just need to give our brains and bodies and spirits a break. It is as if we who live a very busy life, even in our retirement, finally wake up to this spiritual truth. Remember we all just need to chill out, wind down and so we go away. We must go.

I love to lie on the beach and gaze up into a jet black night sky with twinkling stars, or watch with some of the kids on a blanket as the sun goes down, or do whatever it is we must do to relax. It is then that I actually encounter God and the stillness necessary to remember our connection to this big place called Creation. “Be still,” the universe whispers, “Just for awhile.”

There is something about life on an island. As the time once again grows near for celebrating the New Life that Jesus came to give us, I pray that all of us may find our islands, quiet centers in the midst of our far too often crazy lives. Get away. You’ve still got time.

There, God may be waiting for you, just as God waits for me.

Father Don Kill was ordained as a Columban missionary priest on June 24, 1972. He was assigned to the Philippines and has labored there since September 29, 1972.