As I began my four-day retreat last week, I became aware of how uncomfortable I was with the silence–especially in the evening when it was dark, and I couldn’t go for walk or gaze at the sea. I wanted something to occupy my mind so my mind didn’t occupy me with endless rabbit trails of thought or, worse still, unkind thoughts that won’t go away.
On the morning of the last day of my retreat, I prayed with the gospel narrative of the healing at the pool. Even though I entered into this miraculous story, I got caught by how it ended. Jesus told the man, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
For the life of me, I couldn’t imagine Jesus saying this kindly.
I ruminated about it as I walked the hilly roads on Bowen Island and as I sipped tea and looked out at the ocean.
I know that when we pray with our imaginations, what unfolds doesn’t have to follow the gospel story. God meets us in our story. I also know that if we encounter a Jesus who is harsh, it’s likely a false image of him. I remembered, too, what Father Richard Soo said to those praying the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. He said, “When the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin, I feel loved. If I feel condemned, that’s another voice, not God’s.”
I knew all this, and yet, I couldn’t shake the belief these words were meant for me–that God was tired of my neediness. It was the Bible, after all. And this was what the Bible was saying to me.
Finally, in the long dark evening, I told God, “I can’t stop sinning.” My eyes filled with tears.
Then, I said, “If these words are not for me, let me hear your words, your voice. Tell me what’s true.”
As I waited in the silence, a scene came to my mind from Extraordinary Attorney Woo.
Woo Young Woo is a twenty-seven-year-old lawyer with autism. In the first episode, she meets Lee Jun-ho, who works in the law firm’s litigation department. He’s smitten with her. In Episode 11, Attorney Woo recognizes she has feelings for Jun-ho and keeps looking at him through the window in her office. And this is what happens.
As I recalled the scene, I sensed God reaching out to me and loving me just as I am. Tears flowed. I felt known and deeply loved. I soaked in that love for a good long time. The dark empty evening that had seemed so challenging now provided the spaciousness to enjoy this exquisite moment.
Silence was not a barrier that kept me from God but a window of encounter. And what a lovely encounter that was.
Silence is a window to the soul, and the soul is a window to God.
—Fr. Christopher Jamison, Worth Abbey, UK
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Advent 4 Reflection
Take a few moments to be with the words and images in today’s blog post.
- What draws you or disturbs you as you wait in silence with God?
- What thoughts, feelings and felt senses arise as you welcome or resist this awareness?
- Imagine God listening and feeling what you feel. What do you sense God offering you in this moment?
- As we wait in Advent for the coming of Christ, we sing, “O come, o come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel. That mourns in lowly exile here until the Son of God appears.” May Christ find you in the exiled places of your life and bring you home to God’s heart.