By: Sharon Egert
What does the inner landscape of your heart look like?
This was the opening question of the Come Away retreat I recently attended at the Mark Centre. Immediately a picture came to mind of a field of flowers and bushes. There was much activity on the surface, but it was clear to me the plants did not require roots that were deep.
The next session, another question immediately brought another picture.
What aspect of nature represents my life?
I am like soil. A place for new life and growth and birth. The soil has been tilled and planted in, sometimes trampled on. But this soil is getting dry and losing its nutrients. It provides warmth and comfort and presence, but the soil needs attention too. It needs respect and boundaries. It needs sunlight too. It needs to stop being taken for granted. My soil wants to be black and rich and full of life. It wants to grow things, anything. I got this picture of a garden plot that has been producing abundant and healthy food for many people for many years. But as I take a closer look at the soil, it becomes obvious that it has been depleted of its nutrients. The plants that it has been producing have shorter and shorter roots. The life of the soil has been stripped. Something needs to change.
Lord Jesus, what does this mean? Immediately I had the strong word – the soil needs a year to rest.
That evening during the group meditation, I was very aware of the on-going challenges of being a woman – from taking care of my ever-changing female body to the necessary task of finding my voice. It requires so much work and maintenance. How can I take a year off? How much time and energy will it take to be strong and productive again? Feeling exhausted and frustrated with how much work it takes to look after my body, soul and spirit, I left the room weeping.
Through careful listening, my spiritual director, who followed me, intervened with words of encouragement and wisdom. As she spoke I got a stronger revelation of God’s heart of love for me. Throughout the next sessions, the Lord was revealing to me his mother heart of love for me. It was like I was in the ‘womb of God’, being cared for and nurtured. I didn’t have to do any work, just receive, and take in the ‘sweet nectar’ of care, encouragement and attention from him.
Coming out of the silence, we began to share our stories. My story included a plan for taking intentional time out, over the next year, to rest and receive. I am ready to admit my inherent nature to produce, so I know I will need to give myself permission to rest. I know I’ll need help, direction and support. For this, I plan to see my spiritual director regularly, attend a 12-step addiction recovery group and intentionally make space for rest in my life.
Wow, God, all that in one weekend! It makes me excited to spend more time listening, resting and being silent with you.
Instead of our self-conscious efforts to be good, we should allow ourselves the luxury of letting ourselves be loved by God.
(From Brennan Manning’s – The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus, pg. 40)