The Albatross Hotel sits a couple blocks from the Atlantic, a tired heavy-set Victorian B & B, in Ocean Grove New Jersey. I was there on a two-day personal retreat to clear my head, and try to get the weary out of my bones before the school year began. I hadn’t been able to shake a leaden heaviness that walked in my shoes. The name of the place seemed to mock me.
The first morning I found a seat on the front porch, and besides the lousy breakfast, and the damp seat cushion, it all seemed quite normal; another QT for the books. I was reading Galatians chapter 5, but kept lifting my head to the sound of hammering across the street. When my eyes fell back onto the page, I read these words, “you have fallen away from grace.” On impulse I scribbled in my journal, ‘but a gate is open for you to enter in!’ Right there, wet bottom and all, the weary I had carried for over a month fell away, and joy wrapped me tighter than I had felt in a long time.
I smiled, perhaps like a person in love would, who remembers a perfect memory, and keeps it alive through their imagination, using their senses to capture that moment, until it distills into something concrete. Those six words had turned my weary into amazement. They were a rebuke, and a gracious invitation. It took only a millisecond to step out of my shoes and walk across the threshold of a garden gate, into a lush landscape teeming with life. By every pool and spring, every mossy rock, living waters lapped against my feet, and poured amazing grace into a well that had gotten very dry.
It’s been several weeks now, and there’s a lot I want to forget about the Albatross hotel. Like having to sleep backwards to keep the blood from rushing to my head. Why did I get unit #51, the room with the sloping floors? Yet, despite the quirky nature of that coastal dive, the ‘Albatross had helped create a moment of spiritual fever that hasn’t waned. I guess that’s because when God shows up, it becomes a concrete memory of love that time cannot erode. And love is always enough.
Tell me about a concrete memory of love between you and God.