“As a deer yearns for running streams, so I yearn for you, my God.” Psalm 42:1
Almost three decades ago, I was invited to my first silent retreat at a Benedictine monastery in Nauvoo, Illinois. The nuns directing the retreat had chosen chapter 55 from the book of Isaiah as the theme for the weekend. Throughout our time with them, we would read and meditate upon this piece of sacred Scripture. The chapter begins with this invitation:
“Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty… (Isaiah 55:1)
And continues with this instruction:
“Pay attention, come to me; listen, and you will live.” (Isaiah 55:3a)
And concludes with this promise:
“Yes, you will go out with joy and be led away in safety. Mountains and hills will break into joyful cries before you and all the trees of the country side clap their hands. Cypress will grow instead of thorns, myrtle instead of nettles. And this will be fame for Yahweh, an eternal monument never to be effaced.” (Isaiah 55:12,13)
These verses invite us to live, show us how to live, and paint a vibrant picture of what that life can look like. The result is that we are transformed and God is glorified.
The years have not seemed to dull the vivid memories I have of that weekend. A cherished remembrance is the softly wrinkled face and twinkling eyes of an older nun who served coffee and tea at the end of the food line throughout the weekend. She spoke not a word but her eyes, smile, and gentleness drew me in and made me long for more of what she had. I now would describe that moment as a time when the Divine broke through to my everyday reality, beckoning me to come closer, to more deeply explore what it means to be a Christ follower.
Since that silent retreat, I have continued to pursue God and an authentic faith. I believe that God prompted me to open that door and my heart just a little bit. As it says in Scripture, “Jesus replied: Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make a home in him.” (John 14:23) I desire our loving God to make a home in me.
What is more important and precious to me is that God has continued to pursue me. In so many unique ways. He has sent me numerous people and experiences that reflect Him and draw me closer, into the mystery. I have been blessed by the counsel of so many “wise ones”. A gift that has been essential to my journey. I have encountered wise ones in recovery and wise ones in the faith who are following Christ and model for me how to do the same. Who are the wise ones in your life? Cherish them, listen and observe them, and take heed to follow their example. Pray that God send you wise ones and then pay attention. My wise ones have taught me much about God and much about myself.
Recently I read, “Nothing can compare to the drama of exploring my full potential as a human being”. ** Becoming more fully and more passionately myself so I can actively contribute to life and genuinely love others. In my current season of life, I long to grow old with a sense of purpose. I believe that “time is always and forever an invitation to growth”. *
Striving to become all you can be is attractive. Recovery programs are based on attraction rather than promotion. So is Christianity. Don’t tell me, rather show me. Does your life intrigue others? Does mine? I certainly desire that.
Since entering the decade of our 60’s, my husband and I have attended many funerals. Some as a result of sudden deaths. This certainly can take one’s breath away and cause one to pause and ponder. Many life lessons can be learned. One that I’m particularly drawn to is “Carpe Diem”—to seize the day, each day. In a thoughtful book that I just finished reading, I was challenged to make a list – “Before I die, I want to_____________” * What a wonderful way to start this new year. I challenge you to make that list for yourself.
“Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, Lord.” St. Augustine—His words echo anew for me today.
As we enter the season of Lent, a time to pause and reflect, may we take these thoughts and questions to heart—may we spend ample time in the classroom of silence.
*How to Live—What the Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning, and Community by Judith Valente. (This post has been inspired by this beautiful book which I highly recommend reading.)
**Courage to Change—One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II