As I went away on retreat last week, I wondered what surprises I would encounter. As ever, the transition into silence is challenging, turning off email, turning off facebook, driving away from family and friends, away from the noise of the television, radio or computer, turning off my phone.
The last couple of months, starting in this new role here, settling into our new home, meeting so many new people… I’ve found it hard to make space. As I arrive, I feel desperate to be there, craving the silence, the space… but also nervous, wondering what I’ve been hiding from myself in all the busy-ness of life, wondering what I may encounter in the silence.
My temptation, as I go into silence, is to fill the silence with more busy-ness… with reading, with creative materials… even in silence, it’s possible to distract myself, to numb myself, to try and hide from myself. But I’ve chosen to be here, and my prayer as I start, is for the courage to be open to all that may arise, to trust the process.
As I start to settle into the space, I reflect on the last couple of years, all that has happened. The incredible intensity of some of those moments, the depths of spiritual encounter, all that I have come to know of myself. One of the challenges for me, as I spend time in prayer and meditation since last year, is that nothing compares to the intensity, the light, the connection of those moments. Am I willing to let go of those expectations, to be still in this space, in this time, now.
In the silence, I hear the way I talk to myself, the judgment, the criticism; always judging myself, not good enough for God, not good enough for me. Am I willing to get out of the boat, to walk with God, to take his hand, and take this next step into the unknown. Am I willing to be vulnerable again? I gently take my clay figure from year’s ago, and unwrap it, naked, out from behind the pink blanket. Am I willing to be present, here, in this moment now?
Thankful for my guide, Sister Jo, accompanying me in this silence, time to reflect together each day. She helps me to sit with the questions, to notice the glimpses, the signposts, to have courage to be open, to ask for help, to seek God in all that I find.
Good enough for God…
My heart’s desire, I want to be good enough for God.
I want the certificate and the shiny star,
I want to know I’m doing the right things.
Try harder, I will, try with all my might to be good enough for God.
I’ll follow the rule and encourage others too,
I’ll read the scriptures and pray, and sing and play,
All to the glory of God.
Am I good enough for God,
I want to get it right.
Try harder, I will, try, try and try again.
I want to control, to get it right.
I want to be sure that I’m good enough for God.
Stay with me, remain here with me, watch and pray, says my God…
I haven’t got time to just waste with God…
Too busy, trying harder, to be good enough for God.
My child, I created you in our image,
Everything we made, I saw it, and it was very good.
Listen to me, my child,
Do not be afraid,
You have always been good enough for me.
Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.
Remember when you cradled your child, the joy, the peace,
All of creation in that moment.
Rachel, you are my child,
You don’t need to try harder, the universe is not yours to control.
Rachel, my child, I have loved you since before the world began,
Accept my breath as your breath,
Be still my child, and know that I am God.
Remember, my child, on the floor of A&E, on the bed, in the sand and the snow,
I was there.
Stop trying, my child,
Open your eyes,
Open your heart and see.
I am here with you,
Waiting for you to know
That you have always been…
Good enough for me.
Can I bask in God’s love, accept that I am loved, that I am loveable? Am I willing to challenge my deep-seated fear, that deep down, God made a mistake with me.
And so I take a pilgrimage, across the field, and up the hill. Space to pray in the rock chapel, to dwell with God. As I enter this chapel, struck by the gorgeous colours, the stained glass windows. As I sit with the rainbow of colours, one side of the chapel, the colours for me, blues, pinks, purples. On the other side, my colours for God, glorious reds and yellows. And in the quiet, I face the altar, I face the window at the front.
Green, the colour of ordinary time.
Green, mundane, ordinary.
Green. I don’t want to look at the green.
I hide my face, I look anywhere else, I don’t want to look at the green.
Why am I resisting the green, the ordinary, the colour of life. Over the coming days, I sit with this resistance. I wrestle like a child forced to do homework that I don’t want to do. If I was at home, I may even have mopped the kitchen floor, to get away from facing green. This is why I am on retreat. Even here, I cannot escape from me.
I take this into doodling, to playing with knots, the twists and turns of ordinary time. And out of my resistance, sitting in this space, this painting emerges. Painted onto an old canvas, lurking in the bring and buy shop at St Beuno’s. A canvas so large, I can’t work on it in secret in my room. Painting with these colours, these verses. I take courage to play with green, to take this step into ordinary time.
I remember the lessons I am learning in violin. A new thing for me, together with E, learning violin. Having to be a child again, knowing I don’t know what to do. No matter how hard I try, I can’t solve it in my head, it’s not an intellectual exercise. I have to be present in my body, listening, aware. Our teacher encouraging us to listen, to be aware, to notice, and each time for it to be a little better than the last. Is this violin I am learning, or life? Learning to walk like a child again, delight in each step, no fear in stumbling and getting up, again and again. Accepting, relaxing, being present in this moment.
I make my confession, confessing my pride, that I know better than God, that really, a mistake was made with me. And in that sacred space, the green of the woodland chapel, the green of my painting, I accept absolution, I begin to accept this love.
God’s breath, within me. The divine, dwelling in me, dwelling in you. The call to be gentle with myself, to let go of my judgments, my criticisms, to breathe in this love, this life. And my call to continue this journey, to stepping out, one step at a time, in ordinary time. Finding presence in the mundane, the ordinary. Accepting the ordinariness of me, letting go of my comparisons to intensity. Being willing to live, in this moment, right here, right now. I take off my boots, my feet feel the floor, for this place, right here, right now, this is holy ground.