Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Walking the Same Path, This Time with Wonder

Going through a retreat within the context of my usual daily life is an arduous task akin to climbing a mountain. I embarked on the journey thinking I had brought just enough supplies but after reaching only a short distance, I felt the heaviness of my load and needed to stop to catch my breath. I had to take these stops frequently, until I realized that I had overpacked as usual and would have to let go of some of the "essentials" I could not start the journey without.

After unloading some heavyweights that I did not need, my steps became quicker and the climb took off. Due to my haste, however, I slipped and slid, and found myself back to a place I had stopped to visit before. It was getting dark and I was scared.

And then I saw that there, standing beside a small fire, was Jesus, waiting for me. I put down my backpack and rushed to His embrace, and He quieted down my sobs and asked me to tell Him everything about my journey. At that moment, I saw that nothing was wasted - neither the precious things I threw down the mountain to ease my aching back nor the time it would take for me to re-take the steps I had already taken before, because I was learning a new form of prayer, a prayer of deepening and enrichment.

I was introduced to the Ignatian review process of "repetition".

Repetition is a method of returning to those points where I have experienced "greater consolation, desolation or greater spiritual appreciation". I look for a movement of inner connectedness, or fear or anxiety, and I return to these moments for fruit.

It is not repeating the material for prayer as I repeat a study assignment for thorough understanding. It does not mean that I have to do it again because I did not get it the first time.

By means of Ignatian repetition, I am being invited to go to greater depth in a mystery I have already contemplated or a truth I have considered. It is a matter of focusing.

During last night's session with my Spiritual Directress, she confirmed that I was getting a firmer hold of myself, that despite the highs and lows of the past week, I was able to focus more on God and how He is moving in my life. I was again seeing the inner connectedness of my daily life through the eyes of my retreat. I had to recognize that it was through the choices that I made that I had reached that point - that I was open and vulnerable to the Spirit.

She said that the gifts of the Holy Spirit came in bunches, and it would be good to return to my past month for a greater recognition of those gifts, and a deepening of my response.

Last Week's Theme was spiritual freedom - which was something I gained when I was seized completely by the love of God that all the desires of my heart and all the actions, affections, thoughts, and decisions which flowed from them were directed to God my Father and His service and praise.

In order to achieve this, the grace I begged for was a deep sense of appreciation of what it meant to be a human being created in God's image and likeness and called in freedom to become fully human, fully alive, and unique like Jesus Christ.

After the past week, I saw what hindered me from accepting that I was at the center of God's creation (cf. Psalm 8). I had already dulled myself into thinking that God loved me in a generic way, as in love for all mankind, and not in a personal, particular way (cf. Psalm 139) and that He did not care what I did with my life.

I saw that He gave me unique gifts and that He loved me personally. He answered my prayers daily. He listened when nobody else did. He sent me beautiful people to love and be loved by. And when someone I loved deeply said something that hurt me again, He was there to hold me tight and to assure me that there would be better days.

Loving God in this way certainly requires much openness and vulnerability. Instead of being a glob of emotions like I was before, or, on the other extreme, a dull, lifeless mannequin going through the motions of daily life, I saw how I could reach some balance between the tempestuous waves of emotion I was experiencing and the calming shores of God's love that were available for me.

I trudge on, seeing my journey through new eyes.

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