seeing


“Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they raise children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence.” — Anthony de Mello Listening to and awakening to our souls is hard work. The stewardship of our inner lives is seldom seen on stewardship committee agendas. We are too quick to lunge toward money, time and talent programs. Of all the topics dealt with in stewardship efforts, the care of our inner life is the most important and the least discussed. We sideline it because it frightens us. We are intimidated by spending long amounts of time with God, so we anesthetize ourselves with our busy-ness. Perhaps the unconscious thought is: “If I keep busy – set a fast pace and keep it fueled with appointments and commitments then I will not have to hear God, and I will not have to hear myself.”

Clergy often go on an annual retreat as part of their own spiritual self-care. Of course, you don’t have to be clergy to make a retreat. The monastery where I lived saw 5,000 people each year come to us for periods of retreat. In the church tradition we “make” a retreat rather than “take” a retreat. The word “make” implies that it is work and when it is done well, it truly is just that. Some would say that “making a retreat” sounds self-indulgent, but they are mistaken. A retreat is a time to stop for a period of time long enough to quiet the motors that drive our schedules and our neuroses so we can see some of the hard things we need to see in our lives, our relationships and our inner life with God. A retreat is the spiritual version of a romantic holiday with a spouse – no children, no schedules – just lots of time to be together and make needed adjustments to the life being lived together. It was not lost on me that these two speeding incidents were a wake-up call. The question behind the question was pregnant with potential for my upcoming retreat: What is causing this frantic speed in your life? What are you running from? Why are you disregarding safety – mine and that of others? What are you missing along the road by speeding past it all so fast? So when I planned my week of retreat in June, my spiritual director suggested that the books I was planning to read and the writing I was planning to accomplish were just more “speed.” She reminded me that the inner life I have with myself and with God and with my closest friends is to be cared for as an act of stewardship. In fact she shocked and annoyed me by saying “I want you to put your holy books away for this retreat and just sit and listen with yourself for seven days.” The idea annoyed me. She then made a much more encouraging suggestion for the retreat, saying, “Why not replace the dead saints you were planning to read with your living faith and conversation with God!”

The ancients say that once upon a time a disciple asked the elder, ‘Holy One, is there anything I can do to make myself Enlightened?’ And the Holy One answered, ‘As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.’ ‘Then of what use,’ the surprised disciple asked, ‘are the spiritual exercises you prescribe?’ ‘To make sure,’ the elder said, ‘that you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.’

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