“Be gentle with yourselves,” Erik, our director, told us as we began our 8-day silent retreat. After a few more instructions, he sent us off to pray with scriptures that spoke of God’s enduring, present, and attentive love for us.
During my first one-hour prayer periods, I meditated on Psalm 139:1-18 and Isaiah 43:1-7. The wonder and truth of God’s love for me felt welcoming. The next day, Eric asked me to take a couple of prayer periods praying with special moments from the past year and spend another one praying with a few particularly painful moments. Together, God and I returned and lingered in those times of joy and sorrow. Tears came easily; I felt deeply loved.
Erik asked me what that was like for me.
“God sees me,” I said. Perhaps it was the tone of my voice, but I didn’t need to explain how complete and compassionate God’s seeing of me was and how wonderful that felt.
Erik suggested that I pray with the parable of the prodigal son. “Hold on to the grace of being seen and ask for the grace of confusion,” he said. “By that I mean, the surprise we experience as we discover that God loves us even more than we thought.”
When I prayed with the prodigal’s story, I was struck by how the young man wasted what was given to him. I thought about the wasted opportunities I’ve been given–specifically, opportunities to love. I miss those opportunities when I’m stuck in a NO. In that place, I don’t see past what will make me feel good.
I imagine myself returning to the Father who is waiting for me. He sees how often I get stuck. He knows how much I want to love.
He embraces me and kisses me; he is relieved and glad that I’m home. He puts a ring on my finger and calls his servants to get me a robe and shoes. “Prepare a feast!” he orders. Then he reaches into his pocket and says, “Here are more opportunities to love.” He opens his wallet and thousands of opportunities fly out.
He can see the “Why?” on my face.
He laughs. “Because you’re my daughter!”
It isn’t a reward for the opportunities I have taken to love. Nor is it because I need to make up for what I’ve done wrong or need to get this right.
He showers me with gifts simply because I am his.
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Erik Sorensen, SJ, flew out to Vancouver from Montreal this July to direct an 8-day silent retreat for the Jesuit Spirituality Apostolate of Vancouver (a group of spiritual directors who lead people through the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life). Erik grew up in Red Deer, Alberta and completed a degree in aerospace engineering. But instead of pursuing a career with NASA or a prestigious engineering firm, he joined a religious order. His desire to love God has led him on a number of adventures including the Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage from Midland, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec to promote reconciliation with the first peoples of Canada.