In late September 2000 I made a weekend retreat with members of my worshipping community. I recently came across writing I had done on the final day of that retreat. It is personal writing, revealing writing about a troubled time in my life. I would gently warn off any readers for whom this effort is more than they need just now.
It is Sunday morning, an hour before the closing liturgy of the retreat. I am sitting in my room, using my desk for the first time, lighting the candle before the hinged icons I brought from home. Who wanted to be holed up in a room when all the sky and coastline rocks and walkways and chapels beckoned these past two days?
On the other hand, it seems only fair to the time spent away from home to attempt a thanksgiving for these hours and interior movements. I have just opened the window in my room to allow in the sound of distant waves and gulls and the smell and feel of rainy breezes. Autumn approaches, and the God of my autumn is waiting, it seems, for me to let him get close.
The retreat started with a vivid sense of the reality of past retreats. My usual attempt to imitate or re-create those earlier retreats seemed useless this time, but I wanted to know myself as someone who still wants to know God and find God. It has pained me at points in the past months to imagine that I had made facing God a venture too fearful or shameful to attempt or even envision. I thank God for trying to get the real me in touch with the real him in these forty-eight hours of retreat. Even listless hours, waiting for focus or insight or clear reward, sitting in the sun with a breviary lifeless in my lap, were contact of a sort.
“I wish I knew more… I’m not at all sure.” That was the refrain that came this Sunday morning sitting in the small chapel from 6 to 7:30. “I am someone worth living with.” That phrase as well was key to realizing the ferocity of the self-judgments with which I have been living. Later I sensed an anger building within me as I thought of what I had put up with over the years by my eagerness to be liked, to meet with approval, to get on people’s good side, to charm and disarm. What a waste of time, what a waste of energy! I pray now to take a little pity on myself, to unlearn lessons about how to get along with powerful people who could, I thought, make my life miserable.
I want to be chaste, I want to be good, I want to be strong, but ultimately I think I just want to be God’s. And why do I persist in thinking that I may not want that or that I am not in fact God’s? That real God – beyond my feeble, ferocious attempts to grab and capture his attention and ultimately control and show him how to do his job!
O Mary, Mother, calm me, rock me into careless abandon, accompany me as I age and become someone with friends in their fifties and sixties. Let me know my true worth and stance before God with you by my side. Let me welcome this task of being a 48-year-old man, a 49-year-old man, a 50-year-old man. Does everyone fight it so much? Does everyone play the sad clown attempting to pretend it’s perfectly okay with them when it galls them, hurts them, seems like one more piece of evidence that you were a mistake all along, a bad bet, someone not worth living with?
Let me just say “Amen.”
Let me just say “I love you.”
Let me just say “Thank you.”
Let me just say my name.
Let me just sleep and sigh.
Let me just be.
Let me praise.
Let me sing.
Let me live till I die.
Let me die when I will.
I love you.
-- only John
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