Whenever I go on retreat, I get a glimpse of how God looks at what are "urgent" and "important." My spiritual directress led me to read Isaiah 55 again. I pondered on the words,
 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
I said to myself, How true! How absolutely true. I usually just think of my own little world and are thus concerned with my own little problems, including probably those in my immediate circle, but I have no idea about how answering my prayers would affect other people, and how God must consider other things more important and would like me to take those on instead of the trivial pursuits I always find myself in.
So there I was at the Cenacle Retreat House for my annual personal retreat, and I was at once captured by God's Word. I told Sr. Susay I was thirsting for God, and she said that was a grace given to me, and He would be there to welcome me and listen to me, no matter how mundane I might think my concerns were.
I went to the Upper Room, literally, for the new building had an additional prayer room at the 2nd floor. (Cenacle means the Upper Room where Jesus dined with His disciples, and where the latter, together with Mama Mary, experienced the power of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost.) I felt such love, waiting for me, and just for me, when I entered the room. I knew Jesus was indeed there to talk to me.
I told Him I was frightened, and when probed, I said it was because I might forget Him since I already had what I wanted. Strange creature that I was, with the answered prayer of a job that I liked, I was in danger of forgetting the Giver of the Gift. In fact, it was starting already - the busyness, the anxiety, the panic, and the stress.
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy! (Ps 137:5-6)
Then I felt His compassion and mercy towards my frightened soul, which refreshed me. It was almost as if Jesus was smiling at me. Later that evening, we walked the labyrinth together, me pouring out to Him all the things I was saying goodbye to during that retreat. I found it harder to have closure on people, though, so I asked Him if I could stay in the middle for a while, dealing with the people I loved and could not let go of. He, who was Time, let me be. When I was ready, I took the same path outside the labyrinth, and looked at all the openings before me, and listed down the essentials that I did not want to lose sight of despite new beginnings and different venues in my journey.
There I saw my feelings, what I was excited about, what I was afraid of, and what I was still attached to. I knew I was moving towards certain virtues that seemed so hard to attain before, but was not fully there yet. In all those, I asked, as my SD told me to ask, How do I want Jesus to be there for me?
In between the sunset and the sunrise of my life, I asked that Jesus protect me from letting go of my highest joy - Him, and seeing Him face to face one day, and being with Him and the Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven someday. With all the concerns of this world, my highest joy had to be deeply carved in my heart. I asked Jesus to let me be in the world, but not of the world.
I had to ask myself, too, where my new job was in God's plan for me. Clearly, it was a step, though the end may not be in sight, CD Asia was a good place to learn, and grow, and share. I listed down how I intended to live, and how I would show my fidelity to my God, in this new beginning He had gifted me with.
The next day, my SD invited me to revisit the twin chapters of 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, asking how I was being challenged to see God in the workplace. As I was coming full circle, from graduating with a business degree, dabbling in law school and the mysteries of becoming a lawyer, and then accepting a marketing-, training-, and events-related job in a company whose products cater to lawyers, I had to be grounded, otherwise I could stand to lose the benefits of 14 years of a committed, personal relationship with Christ.
I was also coming full circle in the Ortigas-Pasig area. I first worked there as a fresh grad from law school in 1999, left in tears in 2000 after finding out I had to re-take the bar, then came back in 2001 armed with an "A-T-T-Y", then left again in 2002 to serve God more as a court attorney. Old hangouts such as Shangri-la Plaza still stood tall, but new ones came along like Podium. Old friends had since moved to other jobs, but new friends lived and worked nearby. I could really be at home there. It was one of many possibilities I recognized before me.
As I personalized my call to love - myself, my God, and others - my SD encouraged me to be more real, and not be just "proper", "right", and "good" all the time. In order for me to adapt, grow, and change as God wanted me to, I first had to be honest with Him. So I laid down everything, not holding back, and trusted He could work it all out for the good.
All my idealism was intact, but I was being invited to channel it to a new "nation", where I would learn to love and be loved, and not just to serve and be served, as I somehow tend to look at my relationships.
Behold, you shall call nations that you know not,
and nations that knew you not shall run to you,
because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you. (Isaiah 55:5)
My retreat started on Sunday, when the Gospel reading was about Jesus staying at Martha's house, and pointing out how Mary chose "the better part". I closed my retreat on a Tuesday, a busy working day. In fact, I had to attend a work-related round table discussion a few hours after my retreat. I definitely needed that break, to sit at Jesus' feet at the Upper Room, so that I could go about my tasks with joy and purpose. It was easy to do so within the confines of the retreat house, where my only duties were to pray and to journal. The challenges were all waiting the minute I left the gates of that sanctuary.
All I can say, since I don't know what lies ahead, is that I am not yet in heaven; neither am I a saint, but somehow, there is hope, that I am moving towards that, at my own pace, within God's time.