I’m not sure when I stopped lying on my back under leafy summer trees and watching the sun play through the green. When I moved to the south and it became so hot? When I received my first fire ant bite? When I thought I might be too old to get back up again with dignity?
Well, I’ve started again. I have the glorious blessing to be on my first residency retreat for my Shalem Institute Program: Nurturing the Call Spiritual Guidance Program. We were sent out into the lovely gardens of the Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center to pray and I found myself face up under a tree with tiny glimmers of sunlight peppering my body with pinpricks of warmth.
Suddenly, I felt God call me to sit up. Was it an army of angels descending? Was it sunburn? No, it was a fawn far down in the field below, taking a few tentative steps out from the woods into the clearing. Fortunately I was far enough away that my sharp indrawn breath caused only a flutter of its flag-like tale. Was it a butterfly that caused the same flutter as the deer took a few more steps? Was it mom calling from the woods that caused him to turn that white flag-tail and flee back into the shadows?
As I prepared to settle back into my under-tree prayer, out came the fawn again. I was reminded of playing at the ocean – dipping a toe into the waves then scurrying back when they threaten to cover your feet. Then I heard God speaking in my heart: This is how I see you.
I have been trying hard the last few weeks and months to listen for God in a decision I am trying to make. I take one step or even several steps toward it, and then go scurrying back into my comfortable shadows. There’s no real danger. It’s not hunting season. And I think the grass may be sweeter if I just step out in faith. But still I’m fluttering and a little anxious to be so bare and open. Yet there is play too, a chance to dream of something new.
I felt God say, “I see you and I delight in you, like you delight in this fawn. I’m not going to give you all the answers this time; I’m going to watch you grow and gain confidence. But I will be there. And if I laugh out loud I will be laughing with you, not at you. You are a joy. You are my joy. And I love you.”
The fawn finally settled, grazing under an apple tree. Were the first sweet fallen fruits its reward for its newfound confidence? The bell to call us back from prayer time caught my attention. When I looked back to the tree, the young deer was gone.
We were supposed to be reflecting on a core spiritual experience from our pasts during this prayer time. Instead I was having a new one.
What are some core spiritual experiences you have had? Do you ever take time to reflect on them? How does God see you? Can you imagine God’s delight with you? What gives you the confidence to step out into new things? What causes you to turn tail and flee?
My spiritual director has been a critical part of helping me discern new directions in my life. If you would like to find out more about working with me in spiritual direction, check out my website for Openings: Let the Spirit In.