For me, it has been a time of truly deepening my faith - with the growing experience of God's light. For the past week, I went through my journals of this time (3!) and today I reviewed the writings that we received each week.
Ignatian writes that God gives us memory, understanding and will. There is so much here.
In the first few weeks of the retreat we spent time with our memory - reviewing our life and seeing in a new way the occasions of grace and the abundant blessings. Grace is really understood and received in a real awareness of our sin. Sin is - in our culture and within our spirit - such a downer. And so we repress and deny so much of who we have been and can be. Ignatian writes: "For many of us, the ways we are rebellious in our failures to praise, reverence and serve God are often subtle." So beginning with honest reflection led me into a much deeper awareness of God's amazing grace toward me and heartfelt gratitude. And I learned how hard grace is for me to really accept. Reading the book Who Told you You were Naked? was so helpful for me.
Later we spent time with Mary during the season of Advent and reflected a lot on waiting. I keep learning about my natural impatience which gets in the way of receiving what is present in the moment. So much of the spiritual life is waiting in hope for God's work to be revealed.
Then there was time with the life of Jesus, his healing work, the Beatitudes, the call of the disciples. None of this was new to me as a long time preacher and Bible student - and yet it has been made new as I have prayed with Mary, with Peter, with Jesus. And as always, there have been openings and deeper understandings for me in my daily life.
Holy Week and especially Good Friday and Black Saturday was especially meaningful to me this year. I wrote this in my journal on the day before Easter:
"I can be mindful of the path of Jesus. We can go so far and then there is mystery. Unknown. But still activity. What we think is hopeless has movement."
And this retreat coincided with my daily life experience during these 30 weeks - taking my mentally ill stepson into my home and heart and then letting him go. So that the pain and confusion of the cross - somehow spoke deeply to the pain and confusion I have experienced in my daily life. And trusting in God's hidden work.
Finally last few weeks have been spending time with the resurrection appearance of Jesus and these words that resonate for me - "Peace be with you." There is so much mystery to all of this but the eventual word has got to be peace - the peace that only comes after a struggle.
I write all of this today to try to make sense of what I have struggled with over these weeks. And also to have a brief record for myself of this time. Thirty weeks in which I met with a spiritual director weekly, prayed for an hour a day, and remembered and reflected and trusted in the slow work of God within me.
Here is a wonderful prayer that sums everything up
Take, Lord and receive
all my liberty, my memory,
my understanding, and my entire will,
all that i have and possess
you have given all to me
to you, Lord, I return it.
All is Yours
do with it what You will.
Give me only Your love and Your grace.
that is enough for me.