God Meets Us in Amazing Ways
August 18th Mary and I celebrate 40 years of marriage. We both believe that our three week retreat of solitude and silence in the “Journey Inward” with God and our spiritual director, Dr. Bryan Van Dragt, is having and will have a profound impact on our lives and marriage as we enter into the last third of our lives.
A Taste of Eden
After two weeks we got a break on Friday afternoon and Saturday which we spent together in Seattle. We both were a bit anxious about what and how to share from all that we had gained during the first two weeks about ourselves, our childhoods, and how all of that affected our marriage. However, we each felt an openness at all four levels of our hearts that was deeper and safer than ever before. It was an enjoyable, beautiful time of poignant reflection and yet authentic celebration of what God has done, is doing, and will do in our lives. It was the most meaningful experience of our marriage!
As I returned to my beautiful cottage by the sea on Saturday night rolling my suitcase to the door my eyes moistened, “I’ve tasted Eden and I don’t want to go back.” All walls down, naked and unashamed, secure, at rest.
Challenging, daunting, painful, stretching, frustrating, yet eventually rewarding. When I hit roadblocks, God met me in amazing ways through impressions, scriptures and pictures that consistently guided me. In one place of pain and struggle I discovered a hymnal in my cabin and went to a hymn that has become increasingly precious to Mary and me through our transition to Atlanta, “Be Still, My Soul.” (words below) I wept my way through it as I variously sang and read the words. Tears of gratitude fill my eyes even now.
In God’s kindness He placed me in breath-taking beauty to process the truckload of pain that I have been caring since childhood. My cottage was on Puget Sound with Mount Rainer rising in front of me tucked behind the mountain across the Sound. Behind me woods of fir and fig leaf maples towered above, reaching towards the sky. Thousands of giant ferns along with rhododendrons of reds, purples and pinks were my companions. I would walk for hours along the rocky shore line and on a road through the woods processing the sorrow, the losses in the pain of my childhood and how that has impacted my life, my choices and my relationships. God met me there in nature, my times in the scripture, in worship, in my dreams, in my journaling and through the gentle discerning wisdom of my director.
by Catharina von Schlegel, 1697-?
Translated by Jane Borthwick, 1813-1897
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
Since 2000 I’ve had increasing glimpses and understanding of my childhood and the impact upon my life. In this experience it all came together. I faced the pain of my childhood, the strengths and struggles of my parents, the ways I responded, and began to more clearly see how it all shaped my life. I look back and understand many of my actions and reactions. I’m in awe that Mary and I survived the early years of our marriage. I experienced in new, profound ways the truth of “blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” and James’ admonition to “grieve, mourn, and wail.” As I cleared out the pain of my life and our marriage it opened up deeper opportunities for intimacy with God and Mary.
I was able to receive God’s grace at a depth that I have never experienced before, which allowed me to forgive myself and open fully to God and to Larry. Fig leaves off, no need for self-protection. I did not run from the pain but met God there and found His comforting, healing presence. I continue to experience the golden thread through my life of God’s pursuing love and I am choosing to receive His love in ways I never have before.
Mary and I are eternally grateful for the opportunity God gave us to pause, look back and then look forward all the way into eternity. Tears come to my eyes as I sense the gracious love of God and all those who made this time possible. I pray that you will benefit from the good work God is doing in our lives.