Friday, September 4, 2009

Retreat of Distractions

Like a deer that longs for running streams, so my soul longs for you, my God. Psalm 42

Feeling frustrated and worn down by my busy life, I took a retreat from ordinary activities and spent a day in silence with God, hoping that He would satiate me with the nourishment of His sweet love. Sitting in a wooded grotto, rosary in hand, I prayed before the statue of Mary without much devotion. The wooded location was beautiful, with only a few mosquitoes to annoy me, but I couldn't seem to bring about much feeling in my deadened heart. Before long, those annoying mosquitoes got on my nerves and I left the quiet sanctuary and I walked to the sunny outdoor Stations of the Cross. Meditating with the beautiful words of St. Alphonsus Liguori while contemplating the raised artwork on the cement stations, my heart quickened a bit as I felt a little more love for Jesus and his love for me, until the wasp nest with hundreds of wasps flying in and out, scared me away.

I left my natural surroundings to find God in the adoration chapel. Distractions mounted as some workmen had chosen this day for construction inside the convent and the constant pounding of hammers kept me from falling asleep as I often do at adoration, but also kept me from focusing on Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist.

I left Jesus alone with an elderly nun in the back row before my hour was through, and walked across the street to the lake to search for bits of sea glass along the lake shore. I walked for hours upon the rocks, feeling them wear right through my shoes bringing pain to my feet and the muscles in my legs. My obsessive search for the treasured bits of softened glass came to symbolize my obsessive search for the part of my soul that had become buried under distractions and false idols these past few months. I wondered if God could ever find a home within my aching and sorrowful heart, or had I pushed him away by my neglect. My time of silent reflection was interrupted by some drunken men stumbling down the bluff and I thought with or without God in my heart, I had better leave.

In the early evening hours, I curled up on a park bench overlooking the lake to lose myself in a book and try to forget the emptiness that had taken residence inside of me. Streams of sailboats dotted the horizon, slowly moving back and forth against the brilliant blue backdrop of lake and sky. The scene was lovely but a chill in the air soon entered my bones and I knew it was time to leave. I felt stuck in my sadness and no amount of silence in the presence of God could change that. I wanted to feel Him within me so desperately, the kind of feeling that would linger forever, but it was time to accept the fact that it was just not meant to be.

As I was walking along the seminary path in the dusk, I spotted a doe and her two fawns in the field. The fawns were nursing enthusiastically, tails wagging for joy. Suddenly, the doe shook the fawns away and they all continued to graze on the grass. I think God must have meant for me to witness this scene. Maybe His chasing me away all day was just like the mother deer and her babies. Could it be that I was only meant to share a small amount of time alone with God, and then I was meant to go back to my business of every day life, caring for my family and my clients at work? I thought that perhaps, just as the mother deer lovingly nurtured her babies for a short time, God also meant to lovingly nurture me for a short time and then He expected me to be satisfied enough to carry on with bringing His love to others.

Dear God, I long to feel You within me day and night. I want your sweet consolations to constantly bring me comfort. Help me to accept the fact that I must draw my strength from small moments of grace and give me the courage to carry on with those tidbits of love that you share with me. Amen.


  1. Distractions! Distractions! Distractions! How I wish this never happened to me. Someday, this will never happen to us. Amazing thought,isn't it?

  2. I once had a priest tell me that we must not "become so Heavenly bound that we are no earthly good"...

    I loved your analogy of the mother I ponder the thoughts that you shared...I can think of moments when God has "shooed me back to my duties" when I have held a selfish desire to have Him all to myself...and to only give myself to Him...I suppose I forget that He is IN all of my earthly duties and the faces and hearts of the people whom I am called to serve.

    Thanks for reminding me of that Anne.

  3. This is really beautiful, Anne.

    It's hard when prayer time is "disappointing" or less than we expected, isn't it? But I agree with you that it's never really wasted ...

  4. Ginny's right -- it's hard when anything is disappointing or not up to our expectations -- especially when it's our spiritual connection.

    But attempting that connection is never a waste of time.

  5. When one looks for and hungers for God, it's never a waste of time, Anne.
    I believe that when we put our hearts in what we do and have to do every day, and offer our work to Our Lord, this is the best prayer that can be offered.
    God bless.

  6. Perhaps you will find that these words from St. Francis de Sales speak to your heart:

    God keeps this wonderful world in existence amidst constant change. Thus day passes into night, spring into summer, summer into autumn, autumn into winter and winter into spring. One day never exactly resembles another: some days are cloudy, some rainy, some dry, some windy. Variety gives great beauty to the universe. It is the same with man, who has been called by the Ancients “an epitome of the world.” He is never in the same state. His life flows on earth like the waters which surge and swirl in a perpetual diversity of movements. Sometimes he is lifted up by hope, sometimes cast down by fear; sometimes bent to the right by joys, sometimes to the left by sorrow. Not one day nor one hour is exactly the same.
    We can learn much from all this: we must try to keep a constant and unchanging balance of mind in the midst of this great variety of changes. Though everything turns and changes about us, we must always remain firm, our eyes fixed on God seeking him and moving towards him. A ship may sail in different directions, north or south, east or west, driven by various winds, yet the needle of its compass will always point towards the pole star. Let everything turn upside down, not only about us but also within us: whether we are in sadness or joy, in consolation or bitterness, in peace or trouble, in light or darkness, in temptation or tranquility, in liking or disgust, in dryness or warmth, scorched by the sun or refreshed by the dew, yet the highest point of our heart, of our spirit, of our superior will, which is the needle of our compass, must always be turned to God, our Creator, and Savior, our unique and sovereign good, tending continually towards him.
    Whether we live or die, says the Apostle, we are the Lord's (Rom. 14:8). Who shall separate us from the love and charity of God? No, nothing shall ever separate us from this love: neither tribulations nor sorrow, neither death nor life, neither the present sufferings, nor fear of future calamities, neither the deceptions of evil spirits, nor the height of consolations, neither the depth of afflictions nor the tender feelings of devotion nor dryness ought ever to separate us from this holy charity which is founded in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:35, 38, 39).
    This total commitment never to abandon God, nor to forsake his gentle love serves as counterweight to our spirits, to preserve them in holy equanimity in the midst of all the changing circumstances which the conditions of this life bring to them.

  7. What a beautiful post Anne. I understand completely. I experienced that myself on retreat this past weekend. All God desires is your intent to spend time with persevere despite the distractions from within and without. As we grow closer to Him, He withdraws His consolations in order that we may prove our love for remain faithful to prayer despite the feeling of *lack of peace* or *lack of His Presence*.

  8. Thank you all for your kind and supportive comments, and Sue, thank you so much for the quote from St. Francis de Sales. He is my absolute favorite, so loving!

    It's been a rough couple weeks for me emotionally and spiritually. If it weren't for all of you wonderful blogging friends, I don't know what I would have done. You always leave me such kind and encouraging messages and point me right back to God where my constant gaze belongs. Thank you all so much!

  9. It reminds me of times when I am so thirsty and I get that one cup of cool water . . . it's so pleasantly refreshing and I crave more . . . . and the second cup (and so on) are just never as sweet to me. Is it because the water has changed? No. I had been satisfied at the first cup . . . I guess, what I am trying to say is what everyone else has said in one way or another: the search is never in vain; He will never leave or forsake you; remain faithful and you'll be satisfied.

  10. Hi Anne!
    It looks like God wants you in the World (that is,as in the worldly world as opposed to the contemplative world). Maybe He is telling you that you don't need to look for Him. He is right with you in your everyday world. I'm really sorry to hear you've been having a hard time.
    I assume there was no internet access in these places you mentioned! Your blog posts and kind comments bring God's love and consolation into my world and that of many others. Perhaps He wanted you to continue that work!
    I've done a lot of presuming about God there. I hope He doesn't mind!