Retreat 7

The LORD​ is your Life

Dear Friend,

 

As we post our seventh and final retreat in this series, I would like to ask an honest question: What generates your deepest sense of identity today?​ Is it your job title or position? Is it your connection to a political party? Is it your connection to Young Life? When others walk away from an encounter with you, of what are they most aware? Is it your connection to a social movement, an ethnic group, your gender or a compelling cause? Or is what others notice most about you the gentleness of Jesus; the kindness of the Spirit; the goodness of the Father’s DNA?

 

In this retreat, we turn one last time to the message from Moses on the threshold of the Promised Land. In it we hear Moses ask the Israelites, Who are you going to be in this new world? And then he emphatically reminds them, “The LORD is your life!”​ This is the most important understanding they will carry with them into the future. If they have not learned to internalize and embody their true identity as God’s beloved children, then even a spacious land flowing with milk and honey will feel like prison. They will continue to live like tired and weary slaves. Or maybe they will live like task masters, ruling over others. The work of the wilderness is identity formation.​ Now is the time for the Israelites to fully step into their identity as deeply loved sons and daughters of the Most High God.

 

Though we are posting our final retreat, it seems we are still wandering in the wilderness created by the pandemic, at least in the United States. Here is our prayer: May this wilderness have its full and good effect in our lives. May we detach from everything that has laid claim to our identity and emerge as people who identify wholly, solely, deeply and completely with our Lord Jesus Christ. May we more fully embody our Father’s DNA.

 

This retreat is written by and offered in the voice of Tracey Meeks, and what an inviting voice it is. Tracey invites us to stand outside the empty tomb with Mary on Easter morning and encounter Jesus. From that moment forward, it is easy to imagine what generated Mary’s deepest sense of identity. She had seen the Lord! He had tenderly called her name! Everything else was garbage compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Him.

 

This is the final retreat, but we will be offering a bonus gift for you the week after this retreat is posted. So check beneath “Your Retreats” one more time. Until then, enjoy this beautiful gift from Tracey.

 

Until Christ is formed in us,

 

Donna Hatasaki

Director of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care

Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with you evening, how you spend your weekend, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”


— Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ

A First Reflection

As you enter into this time of retreat, consider what your soul needs or desire during this time. A nap? A walk? A silenced phone? A quiet setting?

 

Take a moment to be still and quiet. Imagine God looking upon you with a long, loving gaze, encouraged ​ by your desire to sit in His presence. Let your breathing help you to relax as you notice its gentle rhythm. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your time and allow you to rest in His presence.

Throughout these retreats, we have been visiting the framework of a threshold: those liminal spaces when the past season has come to a close, but there is a profound unknowing of what will come next.

 

In the passage from the last retreat we read in Deuteronomy, Moses is giving the Israelites a final charge before they enter the Promised Land. They too are in a threshold moment … a borderland … between their wanderings in the wilderness and the soon to be inhabited land flowing with milk and honey.

 

And what is Moses’ encouragement? Choose life. He lets them know that set before them are life and death. As I have been pondering what helps me to choose life each day, and particularly during this pandemic, I kept being brought to Mary Magdalene’s moment at the tomb where she also finds herself in an in-between moment.

 

Let’s look together at Mary as she chooses life in the midst of uncertainty and her disorienting grief.

Take some time to read John 20:1-16 slowly and reflectively.

The passage begins by letting us know that Mary left for the tomb, while it was still dark. ​ A courageous act of love as she perseveres through the darkness. Not just the darkness of the early morning, but the darkness of her grief, the darkness of lost hope.

 

Imagine the weight of grief she’s under having just witnessed Jesus’ excruciating death. Think about the raw emotion in the first few days after someone you love dies; the possible sleepless nights, the sense of living a nightmare.

 

Mary sees the stone rolled away, runs to tell Peter and John, they come and go, and then we are told that “Mary stood outside facing the tomb, crying.”

When everyone else goes home or goes away, Mary stays. She moves toward the pain. It’s been said that one of the primary characteristics of Mary Magdalene’s life was a desire to be as close to Jesus as she possibly could, no matter the obstacles. She was there at the crucifixion. She was there at the hurried burial as the Sabbath was drawing near. And she was there at the tomb.

 

When it says she was crying, this was not just a solitary tear trickling down her cheek. The words here in the original language let us know that this was not a quiet, restrained shedding of tears, but the noisy lamentation typical of Easterners of that day which would have been more like wailing.

 

The passage continues .... "She saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet, where Jesus’ body had been lying.”

Think about that for a minute.

The woman who had been delivered from 7 demons
is now seeing angels.

“They said to her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “Because they’ve taken away my Lord,” she told them, “and I don’t know where they’ve put Him." Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not know it was Jesus.”

 

She turned around. Have you ever wondered what made her turn around initially? Did she hear a noise behind her? Could it have been that the angels had some kind of reaction to the presence of their Lord? ​

 

“Woman,” Jesus said to her, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"

 

Dale Bruner reminds us that, “The question is pastoral and compassionate. The best thing to do with a grieving person is to enter his or her space with heart.”

 

Both the angels and Jesus ask this question. They both attend to her pain. Just as Jesus does with us, He invites Mary to confide in Him, to pour her heart out, and offers space for her tears and grief.

 

Jesus said, “Mary.”

 

Was it something in the way the name was spoken that caught her attention? Was it the tone, the warmth, the affection, a familiarity in how it was said?

James Martin in his book, A Pilgrimage, writes, “She knew that distinctive voice with the Nazarean accent — the voice that called her into wholeness when it expelled whatever demons troubled her, the voice that welcomed her into His circle of friends, the voice that told her she was valued in the eyes of God, the voice that answered her questions, the voice that laughed over a meal, the voice that counseled her near the end of His earthly life, the voice that cried out in pain from the cross. Mary knew that voice because it was a voice that had spoken to her in love.”

 

“Turning around, she said to Him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ — which means ‘Teacher.’” ​

 

Somewhere in this exchange she must have turned back again toward the grave because again it says she turns around, toward Jesus. The Greek verb for turning around carries the meaning of changing one’s manner or concern, changing course of action.

 

Mary, in this moment, turns herself AWAY from the grave and the quest for a dead body and turns herself TOWARD Jesus, who was fully alive.

 

She turns away from despair and toward hope; away from the darkness of the tomb and toward the Light of the world; away from death and toward life.

 

Within all the disorientation of the moment, with the very turn of her body, she turns toward life, she was​ choosing life.

James Martin writes:

 

“It was the power of His voice, His Word, His presence that would sustain her … through whatever circumstances she might face … That morning, Mary went from absolute sorrow to astonishing joy. She’d been paralyzed by grief and despair and was now transformed by the miracle standing before her, reminding her that their relationship was hardly over, it has only begun. The Presence of Love was with her as it is with us.”

 

The Presence of Love was with her, and she heard the “voice that had spoken to her in love”. This is one of the deepest desires of the Good Way team, that you would recognize the voice of Jesus as the voice that speaks to you in love. The voice of the Good Shepherd. The voice of the One who knows you from the inside out and loves you completely and deeply. It is His loving voice that faithfully calls us to turn from death and choose life.

 

Even in this time of disorientation, loss and facing the unknown — ESPECIALLY in this time of disorientation, loss and facing the unknown — may you hear Him calling your name, and with deep love and compassion, inviting you to turn towards Him and choose life.

 

May God give each of us the grace to hear Him call our name, as we wait together in this thin place.

The Magdalene’s Blessing
by Jan Richardson

You hardly imagined

standing here,

everything you ever loved

suddenly returned to you,

looking you in the eye

and calling your name.

 

And now

you do not know

how to abide this ache

in the center

of your chest,

where a door

slams shut

and swings open

at the same time,

turning on the hinge

of your aching

and hopeful heart.

 

I tell you,

this is not a banishment

from the garden.

 

This is an invitation,

a choice,

a threshold,

a gate.

 

This is your life

calling to you

from a place

you could never

have dreamed,

but now that you

have glimpsed its edge,

you cannot imagine

choosing another way.

 

So let the tears come

as anointing,

as consecration,

and then

let them go.

 

Let this blessing

gather itself around you.

 

Let it give you

what you will need

for this journey.

 

You will not remember

the words —

they do not matter.

 

All you need to remember

is how it sounded

when you stood

in the place of death

 

and heard the living

call your name.

For Reflection and/or Journaling

What stirs in you as you ponder Mary’s encounter with Jesus at the tomb?

What comes to mind as you think of Mary’s response to the angels “They have taken … and I don’t know”. How do these statements resonate with you in the place you find yourself?

 

Is there a conversation with God you could have around this?

 

Receive the invitation to pour out your heart before the Lord. “Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.”​ — Lamentations 2:19

 

Take some time to remember and reflect on God’s voice​ that has spoken to you in Love.

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