I spent the weekend at a house church retreat. It’s not exactly the place I would have expected to find encouragement for an exploration of Catholicism, an exploration of this thing that God has placed in my path, but that’s what I found.
(To be fair, I think I also confounded a few people by admitting that I don’t actually have a problem with institutional church, and that high on my list of favorite expressions of church is the Catholic mass.)
The day before I left for the retreat, I met with my therapist. It was one of those sessions where tears and insight come unexpectedly, catching you off guard and blindsiding you as they flow hand in hand. In the midst of that session I found myself thinking of that commanding promise that God gave to Abraham – to leave for the land God would show him – and the ways in which I have felt that same command from God take root in this journey of exploration I’m walking.
For months I’ve explained this journey of researching Catholicism by citing that verse. I’ve talked about how I don’t have a clear destination in sight – how this journey might lead to conversion, but it might lead somewhere else entirely. I was pinning my hopes on that, actually, rather frantically reminding myself to live calmly in the place of exploration, and not focus on the many possible outcomes of that exploration.
Do you see the irony in a frantic reminder to embrace calm?
Somehow, in that session with my therapist, the reality of the journey to a land he’ll show me moved from my head to my heart. In that session, and in the days at the retreat that followed, I began to feel the panic and frenetic circling of possibilities settle into peace. I can do this. I can choose to focus on this moment, on the book I’m reading, on the words someone has shared with me, on the spots Jesus is working in my heart. I don’t need to focus on the potentially dramatic outcomes of exploration. I can’t focus on a destination that remains unknown. And peace settles into place when I recognize this.
Each speaker confirmed parts of my journey. I felt the sense of having come full circle – of being invited again into parts of my relationship with Jesus that became stilted and cold in the years since I was in Malta. I experienced the reminder that expecting the journey to be easy – expecting A+B to lead to C – is a faulty supposition, one contradicted by the words of Scripture. I experienced the chance to settle into joyful presence. And I experienced what it was to hear Jesus speak directly to my heart through some prophetic words from friends – words they couldn’t have known the significance of as they shared them quietly with me during a time set aside to hear and practice sharing what we heard.
I feel a settling into peace that can’t be explained. I feel it as I contemplate the four days of anniversaries from my time in Malta that were marked last week. I feel it as I ponder the very specific image that my friend shared on Sunday morning, and the words another friend spoke to my heart. I feel it as I look forward at the Lenten season that begins tomorrow and as I pray for what that season will hold for this part of my journey. I feel a settling into peace, and an immense sense of gratitude for that.