There are times in life when an encounter with God is as clear as day; when without a doubt its as if God draws very close- like when Jesus arrived at Zacchaeus’s home for tea – it is all that straightforward.
Let me share two occasions where this has happened.
Not so long ago I accompanied a friend to an interview at a Christian Retreat House, and while he was inside I decided to wait for him in the garden. As this was a retreat venue there were lots of places to walk, sit and reflect. A few poustinias scattered around, a Labyrinth, seats by water features and just beautiful landscaping as well as those wilderness places. All together a very pleasant place. I wandered around, as I do, singing to myself and praying, but eventually I took refuge in the poustinia, where I sat and closed my eyes. After a little while the door opened and a man came in. He sat quietly and smiled when I looked up, but he didn’t say anything for some time. I didn’t feel nervous or in any way threatened by him, in fact I felt quite comfortable that he was there.
After some time he started to speak to me about life. He asked me what I was doing there, and I spilled out the long and painful story that had brought me to that place, all that was happening in my life. He listened with a knowing look as if he fully understood. I cried and I felt great comfort from his presence. He told me that I needed to understand how valued and loved I was; he said that other people often love us for what we do, or for what we achieve, but that God loves me for who I am, regardless of anything else. He said he thought that some people had used me for their own purposes, but God is never about using me, he is more about loving – and that his Kingdom purpose was always to love and not to use. He sat with me there through floods of tears; in fact he didn’t move until I had stopped crying. When I did he told me my friend was on his way, so it was time to go. Before he left he said don’t leave it too long before you come back to talk to me, I’m always here. Take care Alison, and he got up, opened the door and walked out. I didn’t follow immediately, I waited a few minutes before I left, and when I stepped outside he was nowhere to be seen. But I saw my friend walking towards me.
Another time was last year as a Ministers Retreat. It was a silent retreat at a Catholic convent. Oh I don’t do silence! I am sorry if this says something about my spiritual condition, but I’d much rather sing and dance any day. I know my spiritual director despairs with me at times, but I can’t help it – when there is silence I can hear music! I was struggling with this day but I was determined to try and remain silent even if it was killing me. After a while of sitting praying and writing I decided I would tackle the Labyrinth. I put my bag and coat down outside the concentric circles and began to walk. Suddenly a man appeared and started to watch me. I smiled at him and he said – “Do you know there is an easier way in, I’ll race you”. With that he started jumping over the small hedges to get to the middle. I immediately took up the challenge and started to run around the circles in the correct way – both of us were laughing our heads off. The silence of that place was now shattered by these two grownups acting like small children. Obviously he got to the middle before me and proudly proclaimed “Oh Yes – I win!” I laughed out loud and he said there is always another way to do things, sometimes we make it all too complicated. Then he walked away. When I got to the middle I sat and smiled to myself. Maybe the way I do things wasn’t that bad after all?
Two very different encounters – but In both I encountered God’s amazing love and joy, his compassion and friendship.
Thank You Father, there are times when your presence is so real and so tangible I can almost reach out and touch you.
Jesus – during this Lenten season – remind me again to find you in the madness of life.
Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us!