The Spiritual Practice of Savouring
A few years ago I went on my first ever retreat with some beautiful people where we spent three days together overlooking Loch Tay. We were tasked with a particular spiritual practice that has formed and stayed with me two years on. The practice of savouring.
VERB savouring: “enjoy or appreciate (something pleasant) to the full, especially by lingering over it.”
We were to walk – walk slowly. We were to notice – notice God’s beauty in nature around us. We were to linger – linger in reflection on an object, such as a leaf or log, asking God why we had noticed that particular object.
I like to collect. I am something of a magpie when it comes to memories and I unashamedly like a bit of melancholy. Perhaps the oddest of my tokens is a bunch of cinnamon sticks glued together. Such things may seem trivial to others but for me they hold emotion, precious moments and the stories of those with whom I have walked through life.
Ever since this retreat (and given my natural magpie tendencies), I have become fond of taking time to savour when I am out in nature. I look for shells at the beach and speak to God about why I was drawn to that particular one. These often just end up lost or forming a small collection in my jacket pocket. But in that moment of noticing, God stirs my heart and speaks to me.
It has become a way for me to discover what is going on deep within my soul.
Recently, I went on my first ever solo retreat. As I meandered along an Aberdeenshire beach, exploring the awe-inspiring cliffs, I came upon a secluded pebble beach and set about looking for a stone, asking God to help me choose one. Eventually I found one – a perfect circle, heavy and smooth. It felt as if it had been sculpted for the palm of my hand alone. I had picked it up because it was a creamy white with black dirty spots on it and I felt it represented how I was feeling – messy, dark, raw parts of me peaking through. I had been praying much on this retreat, seeking healing and direction.
As I turned to leave the beach and walk back up the cliff path, I noticed a glimmer as the stone caught in the setting sun. Looking closer, I realised that what I had initially seen as dark, dirty spots and had so quickly identified with, were actually glistening flecks of granite. It was like God was saying to me, “You see mess. I see beauty.”
God has a way of stopping us in our tracks and flooring us with his presence.
Isaiah 61:1,3 “[He sent me too]… provide for those who grieve in Zion. To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes”
If left on the beach over time, this stone would have become even more worn by the slow process of being hit by waves and surrounding rocks, the granite shining through all the more brightly. A process of refinement. I realised why God had drawn me to this exact rock. I so easily see all the mess in my life but He was pointing out my process of refinement. The recent years had been a time of being hit by waves of disappointment, setbacks and unanswered questions. Yet out of this season, my heart has been stirred again with purpose, energy and joy. The glistening flecks have begun to shine through. I am being refined.
This practice of savouring, of slowing my pace and seeking God in the everyday, brought me to a place of beautiful (if somewhat painful) healing. Through the practice of savouring this pebble, I became a little more whole.
And from that moment, hope rose in my heart.
Hope that I am a work in progress.
Hope that beauty is born out of ashes.
Hope that he is with me always – I just need to take the time to notice.
And with this hope, I set off back up the cliffs and on to my next adventure.
Kathryn Ritchie is part of the 24-7 Prayer Scotland team and also works as a Careers Adviser, which is a challenging but rewarding role. When she’s not working you’ll likely find her on a beach, doing some DIY in her home in Dundee, making candles for her home business Coorie and Wild, or tucked up on the couch with a good book, a cuppa tea and her dog Bee.