My Eight-Day Retreat: Part 5
Father Roshan picked up on the theme of finding the lost and assigned me the story of Zacchaeus for one of my prayers.
I took the despised tax-collector’s place. However, in my story, everyone was nice to me and I to them. I climbed into the tree, not just to see Jesus, but to see him interacting with people I loved. While up in the tree, someone asked me if I needed anything. How nice is that?
Jesus found me up in the tree and asked to come to my house.
“Really? Other people have nicer houses and more comfortable beds,” I said.
“I don’t mind the squeaky bed in your spare room.”
I asked him if we could invite the people who were following us to come to dinner too. But he said, “Maybe tomorrow. Today I just want to be with you.” So we hung out.
In another prayer, Father Roshan asked me to return to the embrace I experienced when I was the prodigal came home. I told him that it was unlike any other hug in that it was unmeasured. Jesus lets me hug him as long as I want to.
As soon as I said that, I knew that the opposite wasn’t true. I was not comfortable letting Jesus hug me as long as he wanted to. It was a fleeting thought and I brushed it away.
I prayed with Jesus’ embrace, as instructed but, after a few minutes got bored, and there were fifty minutes still left in my prayer!
What now? As I sat in the silence, things added up: God wants to be with me always, asks me to do nothing, vanquishes my fears, finds the joy that is lost and does everything so I am completely satisfied and without want. Then God keeps hanging around like a smitten lover.
The penny dropped. I remembered the erotic words in Teresa’s and John of the Cross‘s poems about uniting the Lover and the loved. I remembered Jesus’ words that one day we would realize that we are in the Father and he is in us and Jesus’ prayer that we may be one just as the Father and he are one.
Divine union. God has been wooing me and desiring an endless embrace. No wonder I was resistant to praying and kept running off. No wonder I was so restless during prayer. I knew from my spiritual direction training that resistance happens when God comes close and wants deeper intimacy.
I imagined myself returning to be one with God, like a missing bit of fabric being woven back into one cloth which is connected to all.
“Breathe in my love,” God said again. I breathed in God’s love with each inhale and breathed out my love for God as I exhaled. There were no tears or surge of emotion, only peace and contentment.
At our final meeting, I told Father Roshan about this. He was grateful that God had given me such grace.
“I used to think that when I teared up and felt God’s tender love that this was a gift, and it was. But it was more than a gift; it was a doorway to enter into and remain in God’s love more deeply and intimately,” I said. “You helped me experience that. Thank you.”
“Thank you for trusting me,” said my thirty-one-year-old director.
“I kept thinking that God wants us to know we are loved so we can be freed to do God’s work. But that isn’t our higher purpose.”
“It isn’t,” Father Roshan said.
“We will love and care for others out of God’s abundant love for us. But our higher purpose–what God wants most of all–is for us to live in the awareness that we are one with God in Christ and connected to all God has created.”
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. —John 14:20 (NIV)
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. —John 17:20-21 (NIV)
Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!
–John of the Cross, “Dark Night of the Soul”
- How do you feel about the idea that God desires to be in union with you?
- What do you embrace in this invitation?
- What do you resist?
- Imagine our loving Friend with you in both your delight and your resistance, loving you just as you are right now. What word, phrase or image comes to you as a gift and a doorway?
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FAQs about My Eight-Day Retreat
- Where can I go for an Ignatian eight-day silent retreat?
Many Jesuit retreat houses offer guided eight-day retreats (e.g. Loyola House in Guelph). But they are quite a distance away if you live in greater Vancouver. However, Chris Chiu, who is also a JSAV director and SoulStream partner, and I will be offering an Intro to Ignatian Prayer weekend at Carmel Hill, in Deroche on October 18-20, 2019. If you would like a longer, eight-day one, please let SoulStream know and we will consider offering it.
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