Tuesday, October 4, 2011
(day seventy-six) The cute little nun who sent me to the garden
Over the years I've had a few friends who have told me about these "silent retreats" and the amazing benefits of going to one. I trusted what they had said... but hadn't felt the urgent need to attend. UNTIL right around last fall when I was completely desperate for some word from the heavenly realm! I had been home from my missional travels for several months now... was still not in the best physical shape, pretty bad emotional shape, and an ugly place mentally and spiritually. I didn't feel at all like myself, and I knew it... which was driving me mad! What was worse, was that I was doing everything I knew to do to try and get out of that darkness... all I could do was wait. Around winter I started researching this silent retreat thing and started talking with the woman in charge of it who graciously offered me a scholarship if I would come. As I drove up to the most enchanting place I'd ever seen tucked away in the hills of Tennessee I was overwhelmed with a sense of peace.
The last thing my mentor told me (on the phone) before I walked in the center was, "Lindsey, you're just gonna have to LIVE it before you can write about it." Just a few days before this... right in the middle of all of the darkness, God gave me the title to the book that I knew I was going to write since I was a young girl. I know I've shared some of the ideas in these blogs but the basic premise of it being God's desire to detox our whole selves- mind, body, soul, spirit. I truly do believe that the WHOLE picture matters because it is all so connected. And what exactly does He need to detox us from? Well... the sin or toxins we allow in, the toxic things that just happen to us (i.e. abandonment, rejection, etc) and we hold on to, the lies we've believed about Him, ourselves and others; basically the "hell" that we see, hear, suppress, believe and live.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what enslaves us. But when He comes in and breaks us free... we must FILL up with His love, grace, hope and truth or more "hell" will make it's way back into that place and fill up the space. This is how we truly live from a place of victory rather than with a victim mentality. To carry on the freedom He gives we are given choice... when we make healthy choices and become good stewards of ALL we are given... our bodies become strong, our minds, our spirits and souls. It's much much harder to put on the armor and defeat those lies when we are weak in a part of our whole. Thank God there IS so much grace given to us... but I also believe it is better that we hold fast to the truth and not play with this beautiful gift of grace that we are given.
So going back to what my mentor said, I had to live my own version of hell so He could show me how He desires to detox me from it... before I could write about it. Makes perfect sense now...in hindsight. Haha. Most of these retreats are about 2 or 3 days long. And once I got to my tranquil room I immediately wished I could stay in this place forever! As soon as I met the woman in charge and dropped my luggage I began babbling about all the darkness I was walking through at the time. I frantically asked her, "Am I crazy??? Has anyone else had these sort of questions and dilemma's as I am having?" She calmly responded in such a loving way..."This is the one thing you must remember during this time. It will be hard, but there is nothing that you will ever walk through on this earth that Jesus himself didn't walk through. So whenever you are having one of those freak out moments remember to invite Him in to that place. He's the only one in this world that has been there and the only one who can console you the way you need." I'd only spent a total of 15 minutes in this precious place and already I was blown away!!
Each day our counselor (mine was a cute little nun) would listen to us for about an hour or so and then give us some scripture to meditate on the rest of the day. This was the only hour during the whole 24 that we were permitted to speak. I LOVED that... I know, crazy right? Ha. There was so much charm in the silence. The first day my nun gave me Genesis Chapter 2 to read. She told me to spend my first day in Eden with God as Adam did. As I meditated on this scripture I pictured what it might have been like to walk around with the King of the Universe in the most spectacular place on earth. As I sat there reflecting I loved to listen to this song by Phil Wickham:
After this completely overwhelming day the nun sends me to Gethsemane to meditate and reflect on the day Jesus went to pray in the garden with a weary and sorrowful soul to His Father. In Luke's version it says, "an angel appeared from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." (Ch. 22: 43 &44) What an image. During this time I felt as though I could almost feel a tiny tiny fraction of what He did. And then it hit me... I had always assumed He just didn't want to go through all the pain of the cross. And perhaps that was part of his agony. But at this moment I started to wonder if He knew that what was going to be the most painful was the moment He was going to think that the Lord had deserted Him. God says He never will leave us or forsake us... but maybe while Jesus was dead (and in some sort of "hell" some say) perhaps it was so dark in that place He did not know in that moment God was still in control and was bringing Him back. I don't know... the bible is not clear on this... but this is the thought I had about it and the things that I learned from it: 1- He loved His Father so much that in the garden He couldn't bare the thought of being outside of His presence even for a moment, 2- He was willing to go through ANYTHING to carry out God's plan for His children because of His love and 3- Most humans experience some sort of "hell" on earth at some point and it may be so dark we do not possibly see where God could be in all of it. This is why we must know the truth and hide it in our hearts. So even in those times... we know that He is there and is in control... even when we don't feel it at all. We've got to trust Him, obey and praise Him especially through the crap simply because HE IS WORTHY.
On the third day my cute little nun counselor gave me Luke Chapter 19: 11- 18 to read. This is when Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene at the tomb. So picture this: Mary is standing there weeping over Jesus's body because it was gone. All the sudden Jesus comes up behind her and starts asking her what's wrong. Not until He says her name does she realize it's her savior! Then as she's freaking out He replies, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'". I had a few revelations during this meditation as I spent time at the tomb with Mary and Jesus. I imagined that I would've felt much like Mary did... wanting more than anything to hug and kiss him!!! And what seems like a cold response from Jesus was an act of AGAIN pointing to God the Father, positioning Himself as the Son and servant of the Lord. He knew He was not going to be on earth any longer so in this moment they HAD to begin to trust in Him they were not going to see anymore. I used to think it would've been easier to believe if I would have known Jesus in person first. But now I'm not so sure.
At one point last year when I was in that dark place I asked the Lord if He would just show Himself to me. All I wanted was a real vision of Jesus or an angel in my room or something! Then I felt as though God said..."If I gave you this that you want, then why would you need faith"? Then I realized if that ever did happen to me I would probably not spend as much time seeking Him as I do... digging deeper into the great mysteries of God, searching for His hand in the darkness... discovering His heartbeat for me and the world. FAITH is essential to our walk with Him. And He does not just strengthen our faith, but allows us to be in circumstances where our faith can be tested. When it's tested it has the opportunity to become stronger when we choose to put our trust and adoration in Him.
At the end of my silent retreat I recognized something about all of the scriptures my nun had sent me to. Each one of those places was found in a garden. When I visit Israel two of my favorite places to pray and worship are the Garden of Gethsemane and the Garden tomb (where Jesus was buried). And another place I love to imagine I'm in now is the Garden of Eden. There is something special about the Gardens I believe. It looks like God is a pretty big fan of nature if you ask me! As I walk through lush gardens I see how alive and beautiful they are. In a garden all of my senses are heightened to where I can see so clearly, smell so perfectly, and almost hear the voice of God so audibly. I wonder if this is because there are no other distractions in the garden to keep us from its delicacy and elegance. I feel God so powerfully in nature, and I wonder if Jesus felt this too.
He walked, prayed, loved, bled, was buried and rose again in a garden.
He is in the garden waiting for you.
He is at the garden praying for you.
He is at the garden calling your name.
Whether you already know Jesus or not He is beckoning you to the Father, wooing you with His undeniable love. It doesn't matter who you are or what you've done... God wants all of you. And when we begin to know even a little bit of His character we are overcome with praise and adoration for the one who humbled himself... bled, died and came back to life again.... for each one of us. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, I can't get enough!! I want more and more and more of Him!!!!
B90: (Luke 21- John 6:15) Find the gardens today and spend time in them with Jesus. Meditate on Him and He will meet you there.
P.s. If you would like more information on the "silent retreats" let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org or check out: http://www.dovehouseministries.com