It’s a challenge to look back at the conclusion of my time at Launde from the midst of a busy life. It’s not that I’ve forgotten what I learned, but the lessons aren’t as easy to put into practise when there are many other things to do.
But that’s alright, of course. When Jesus spoke to Martha about being ‘worried and distracted by many things’ he didn’t actually tell her to take her apron off and sit down next to her sister. He just told her she wasn’t to complain about Mary sitting at his feet with the men (unheard of for a woman at the time, by the way) or demand she come back into the kitchen to help. To choose to sit and listen to Jesus is the better choice to make, but Martha with her responsibilities as head of the household would undoubtedly have found it too hard to sit still at that particular moment – and no-one would have got any lunch!
There are times and places for things, choices to make, and my final day was only able to happen because of the journey of the days beforehand and the silence and solitude of the setting – basically the choice I’d made to spend the whole week on retreat, facing the truth about myself and God. However, even from this distance – a whole month later as I write, but seems much longer! – I can still glimpse the precious pearl that I discovered and I don’t have to go through the process again to be able to grasp the treasure in the present moment: it is available right now if I choose it. Are you intrigued? 😉
This is the view from my window in the Hermitage. Well… it’s what was outside the window with a frame added as a reminder that the world goes on even when we can’t see it… Yes, I actually did some painting!
But that wasn’t the treasure, and nor was walking across the fields, enjoying the Abbey grounds, taking happy photos of trees and sheep, swinging like a child under the cedar tree (on the swing that hangs there!), walking the labyrinth as a representation of my life’s journey so far and a prayer for what is to come. All these things were helpful and markers on the way, along with the heart-searching and self-examination scribbled in my journal. To face up to the failures and shame I’ve carried and the grief that doesn’t go away, yet realise once more that God knows, accepts and embraces me along with all that – and that I can actually forgive and accept myself too! – was major.
But it was this poem by Anne Lewin that gave me the key I needed:
To see a kingfisher – be there and wait. Be still. To pray – be there and wait. Be still. ‘Seeing or not seeing ceases to matter, you have been prepared’. Suddenly I got it. The silence and solitude were actually guides into what I really needed, which was stillness
It all makes sense now. It’s so simple. BE. STILL. and KNOW. and BE KNOWN. I AM GOD is here now. Sit still and wait. That’s all. So many words of advice, of prayer. So much desire – but all already known. As is so often said, Jesus is the Word of God, he doesn’t have a problem communicating with us! “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me” John 10:27. The important thing is to listen – to be available – to make time ie to be still. Everything else flows from this.
Well – that’s it! The only thing you or I can do now is go away and practise this kind of prayer – however and whenever we can. As I sat still, just breathing – actually with my eyes closed rather than watching the sheep outside – I was overcome with peace. I was back to the Kafka quote in part 2 of this series and filled with gratitude. Or to quote another author one doesn’t usually associate with spirituality…
Stillness is the pearl of great price that I found – a way to wait on God, to listen and commune without words. It came at the right time, bringing wellbeing and rest after the rawness of my inner journey. But I know that because of the depth and vulnerability of the preceding days the precious seed was able to root very deeply in me and will surely produce much fruit in the days ahead.
So as a final conclusion to these 5 posts, here’s a quote from a random book I read recently, I Saw a Man by Owen Shears. It’s about a little girl who dies in an accident and describes the progress the bereaved mother is able to make as the years go by:
“She was a woman shaped by her loss, but not defined by it. A woman who would still extract joy from life, not despite her grief, but because of it”
And that’s where I hope I’m headed, strengthened by all the grace and peace with which I’ve been blessed and these new insights and tools for my spiritual journey. With thanks to God, Glen and Launde Abbey!