A few months ago I decided to 'go silent' and headed to the beautiful Ignatius Jesuit Spiritual Retreat Centre in Guelph, Ontario.
I had been there many moons ago, asking God for a very specific answer concerning a very specific boyfriend. And after six excruciating hours of silence. no. talking. to anyone. except. the. man. upstairs. I actually heard from HIM on a rock, by a lake with the sun shining in my eyes. I heard HIM very clearly. And the next day, I broke up with my boyfriend. Which was the best for both of us... in time. (That's another story to blog about one day)
So, here I was again asking God for another very specific answer to another very specific question.. or rather, questions. I actual am embarrassed that in Crayola red and brown marker I have a WHOLE page in my BIG journal (sketch pad) that says "EXPECTATIONS for My Loyola House Visit." Rather presumptuous,, don't you think?
Anyway, I arrive to silence. Get to my day room. Check out my surroundings and where I can get coffee and take pee breaks throughout the day. Sit and look out on the gardens, the fountain and the serene, Psalm 23 landscape. My soul stirs and my breathing becomes louder and the silence envelopes me. And I begin to cry...
There is something mystical, magical and healing about silence. Silencing the deafening demands of the world and the shrilling expectations from .. me. Silence. Inhale. Exhale. The creak of my Hunter boot on the old floor. The fire crackling in the fireplace. The lounge hall door opening and closing. Beautiful Catholic sisters and brothers in their own thoughts, asking God for answers.
Annnnd, then, it was time for me to get outside .. get some fresh air, have an 'out loud' conversation with HIM , and find the stations of the cross so I could feel and know that I did something worthwhile and achieved something productive. I am a mess. A control freak. A doer-holic.
So, as I was trying to find the Stations of the Cross and/or Labyrinth just outside of the Loyola House, I stumbled upon or rather found this walkway that leads to the Stations o the cross AND cosmos (who knew?) It's a path covered with wood chips, rather wide ... with this expanse of trees - foreboding tall trees - lining the path on each side. The branches extend to one another like arms reaching, grasping to create a trust hammock. (I always hated those things at camp) Overhead, covering and protecting me from the rain that was lightly falling.
I got about ten steps down the path when I looked up and stopped in my tracks. Awe and wonder engulfed me. The branches were protecting me.
I couldn't move.
I stood there looking up at the trees, the branches while the rain was falling on my face.
I was totally stunned. Stunned by this simple picture.
Trees protecting me from the rain and the elements.
And then ... I heard HIM
This is me, Melinda, covering you, protecting you, shielding you, loving you, with you.
I heard it. I heard HIM all around me.
I couldn't look down. I couldn't move. I just stood there on the path not wanting to visit the 'stations of the cross' and began to cry.
Light tears at first and then into a full sob. Crying because I knew this truth. Crying because at that specific moment I REALLY knew this truth and I REALLY needed to hear it today and I REALLY needed to be reminded that HE is covering me. He's got me. He's protecting me. He is always with me even when I have NO IDEA what I am going to do or how I'm going to get there.
He is with me.
The rain continued to fall and I slowly walked down the path ... ever so slowly, aware of the crunch of the wood chips under my Hunter boots and ever so aware of His voice echoing:
I've got you, covering you. No matter what, no matter what path you take or where you're headed, YOU ARE MINE. I AM YOURS. TOGETHER.
Cheeks stained with tears.. I kept walking.