Reflections upon my return from the Women's Retreat:
God Club vs. God School
Because I came back to faith largely on my own, not initially having any models in my daily life to whom to turn, to ask questions of or to study their lives*, I studied my way into understanding my relationship to Jesus and to His Church. I was delighted by the connections, the elegant and symphonic logic, the connections to art and science and birth and death and creation. So I am accustomed to making progress, having "aha" moments only in my head. I resist the urge to do the Te Deum dance when the Holy Spirit clicks together two seemingly unrelated issues, a life problem and a Scripture, let's say, since it happens not at a prayer meeting, but while I'm waiting for a conference call to start, or watching EWTN at home, vegging on the couch. I have been going to "God School" since 2002.
(* although if you try and deny the intercessory power and help of the Communion of Saints, I'll kick you right in the slats, at least in my heart. So many saints were so helpful to me.)
At a retreat, especially one like this, you're steeped in fellowship and resources and everybody is praising God right in front of you in all different ways. You can have conversations about current events, and your opinions, if not the same, are governed by the same Rule of Life. People offer advice, and their motivation is for you to grow in holiness; none of the what-if's are immoral. Besides which, you can tell a joke with a teasing reference to Scripture and not have to explain it. You can make any reference to Scripture, and it's understood with the same readiness that a popular culture reference would be in the everyday world. It's "God Club" and it's the supreme version of any immersion camp you would provide to a horse-crazy or sports-crazy child. I really needed this.
Idealization, part 2
Last year, I assumed that these women didn't have any problems. They all seemed so darn cheerful! That idea was knocked out quickly, as I heard heartbreaking stories of illness, family problems, death, job struggles. Their problems are exactly those of the world.
But this year, I realized that I presumed that these women always had the right solution, being rooted and grounded in faith as they are. That they would take a deep, sad breath and peacefully say "I want to discern the Will of God in this, and I will take it to prayer."
That's slightly less true: I didn't necessarily hear anybody laying out their plan of action and thinking to myself "What a lousy idea," but I could also see that their reactions to the problems of their lives included rage and resentment and mistakes and disputes, AND a turning to God as their rock. It's that both-and I learned this year.
There was a time in my life that if someone had said "Let's spend some precious time with Jesus" I'd have winced so hard you'd have heard me two rows away. Words like "beautiful" and "precious" had no place in my God vocabulary, because I'd relegated those words to either untouched, unmanufactured things, such as magnificence in nature (for which I gave God some credit), or to kitchsy, souvenir-store, who's mommy's widdle ootsy pootsy cavity locaters, bite down and zing! call the dentist.
I joyfully reclaim the word "precious" because the treasure in the field, the precious pearl of great price, is communion with the Lord, anywhere along the continuum from prayer to Eucharist.
Confession ain't so bad
Another first (I write these out not to brag but to continue my role as Awful Warning of what you get when you worship yourself for most of your life), is that I could not WAIT to get to Confession. I haven't been since April, although I have enough access to it. I just kept putting it off, and ducking it, and getting busy. Nothing in the presentation before it pointed directly to reconciling myself with God, but I was clock-watching during the meditation time afterwards and dashed down to the chapel to get in line.
One tiny benefit was that I know none of the priests who were hearing confessions, so I was spared that temporal itchiness of "well, howdy Father, old friend, here's the same old sins again and I still doubt my firm amendment to change!" I know that Father hears me with the ears of Christ, but it's just plain embarassing, when looked at in the wrong spirit.
It was a good confession. I don't remember anything anyone said, but I came out of there righteous before the Lord entirely due to His Grace, not by my own efforts, and that was a joyful penance of prayer.
Real friends bring you Jesus
I have friends who have taught me to bake, to make slipcovers, who sat with me during my divorce and listened. I've taught friends to can and preserve, sat with them during the death of their parents and listened. Great to be friends; great to have friends.
But I cannot stop marvelling over the fact that I was at this retreat, worshiping our Creator in worship, meditation, praise, song and ministry, joyfully and wholesomely, at this unique parish, because of a tiny blog-directed friendship: I met Henry while we were both writing entries about annulment and its benefits. Side conversations developed with Roz, his Then-Main Squeeze and Now Wife, and we began to blog here together. Do not EVER think that God does not bring Greatness out of Niceness, Fantastic out of Okay, Mountaintops out of Backyards, and Blessings out of Pleasantries.
and, as a last review issue....Fashion Tips for Retreats
Last year, I admired everybody's Crocs, the footwear of the Holy Spirit. They looked kind of clunky-cool, so I got my own Crocs and packed them, to find that they've moved past them to a kind of sleek low leather clog. Gosh, the frenzied pace of Christian women's fashion.....