Despite my natural inclination to be contemplative, learning to flow with Spirit is a real challenge to my nature. I have the gift of HEARING the Spirit, but that doesn’t mean I always DO what I hear. In fact, prior to my departure for Mexico, I recognized God telling me more specifically – “Colleen, you have Simon Peter faith. You are willing to jump out of the boat, but when you start to walk on water…”
Do you know how the rest of that story goes…” Look it up. Gospel of Matthew 14:28-33.
I’m hesitant to say too much about Lent. I was all ready to dig in to it – because I love this season of introspection and believe it’s critical to growing in faith. And until today, I had every intention of continuing in the tradition.
But I woke up feeling extremely heavy and burdened post my day of solitude and rest. I tried listening to my Lent teachings (Pray-as-you-go has their usual, beautiful and faith-provoking daily journey available on-line) and I just felt so much resistance. Praying through it, I came to an understanding that as much as I admire the tradition of Lent, especially not having grown up with this practice, I’ve the last decade of my adult life – through seminary, and spiritual direction training – examining myself and looking for God in everything, and everyone…except myself.
Last year, I listed to an AMAZING audio teaching by two of my all-time favorite spiritual teachers – Richard Rohr and Fr. Thomas Keating (rest in peace). Healing Our Violence Through the Practice of Centering Prayer is a profound series of lectures given at a retreat some years ago. It’s about healing our wounds essentially and coming to terms with our own emotional patterns. One session I listened to over and over. Fr. Keating gave a life altering definition of repentance framing it this way – “Repentance means , Will you kindly change the direction in which you are looking for happiness?”
While this question will likely evoke different responses for each of us…I have a deep abiding sense of God inviting me to consider what this change of direction means for me. Is it possible that after all these years of seeking God apart from myself, if I simply seek after my own true self – what brings her joy? what makes her happy? – I will inevitably come face to face with God. I will come to know (in the deepest sense of the word “know”) at last what Jesus meant in his farewell prayer for his disciples in the Gospel of John 17 – “that they would all be one, just as you and I are one.”
So I ended the Lent audio recordings, fighting through the dense fog of a pre-menstrual depression slowly rolling in and showered. On my quiet day before, I’d prayed for “divine encounters” to guide me to what to do in this foreign city. And then, my Airbnb host Rene appeared to direct me on the more ideal journey…
Following his instructions, I walked quite a distance to what is called here the Parade of Taxis, and locating the taxi with the sign displaying – SAN AGUSTIN ETLA, I climbed in the back seat of a non-air car, joining another women already waiting. Soon we were joined in the backseat by another woman, then another woman with her young son climbed into the front seat, and we were off – all 6 of us including driver in a four-seater sedan! A few minutes into the drive, the woman to my right (I lucked out and got the middle seat 😉 pulled out her rosary and booklet and silently prayed her prayers while I rode along unfamiliar roadways until after 25 minutes or so, the driver took a right turn and then up we went into the mountains, entering a small town where at the top stood a magnificent church and old mansion overlooking the valley of San Agustin Etla. I was told this place was an arts center, but I quickly discovered there was no art on display anywhere inside this massive structure! Instead to my delight, I was surrounded by stunning views, natural landscapes, colonial architecture, intricately constructed pools and waterfalls, a blazing sun tempered by a cool breeze.
Turns out Spirit had invited me to see what natural beauty is made of. And as usual I heard the invitation…but I’m so happy I said Yes.