by guest blogger Laurel Coolbaugh |
Over many months now I have been sensing an invitation to spend more time with God in silence and solitude. I try to spend 2-3 days away each year, but this spring I felt God calling me to expand that. Recently I was able to schedule an extended retreat of five days alone with God. I initially felt concern as to whether I would be able to sustain that much time apart in silence and solitude without boredom or loneliness overtaking me, but off I went.
I sought to go without an agenda, but rather to lean in and listen. In my previous session with my own spiritual director, I sensed God inviting me to a new level of healing around my need to experience being God’s Beloved. With that very strong awareness, I took with me two books besides my Bible: Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved and David Benner’s Surrender to Love. I had read through each book twice within the last 13 years, yet not consecutively or without other life distractions vying for my attention.
As I settled into the first hours of my retreat, I continued to feel drawn to cooperate with God around this invitation. I luxuriated in this gift from God... the quiet, the time to ponder, read, and journal around what God was highlighting to me through it all. One evening I was captured by the verse, “The Lord’s beloved rests securely on Him. He shields him all day long, and he rests on His shoulders”( Deut. 33:12 Holman). What vivid imagery of being God’s Beloved! As I pondered how my fears and self-rejection keep me from believing and resting in the truth that I am God’s Beloved, I found encouragement from truths like this from Benner, "It is surprising how we fight against Love’s accepting what we do not want to accept in ourselves—our defective, wounded, malicious self. But what a transformation when we can accept this poor self and allow love in! "
As vulnerability is the antidote to shame, surrendering to Love is the antidote to fear and control. The cry of my heart is to be able to surrender more completely to God’s love, which is what becoming the Beloved is all about. There is no way I can do this by my own will, but with the power of the Holy Spirit and with a few close and safe soul-friends praying for me, I am trusting God to continue this work in me. The questions I asked myself in my time away are listed here in hopes that they may be of help to others.
To ponder: Are there parts of yourself that you consistently reject? How might God be inviting you to surrender to God’s Love in these areas of personal rejection? What spiritual disciplines would encourage you right now to believe and receive more of the truth that you are God’s Beloved? Do you have a safe person with whom you might be vulnerable enough to share your truths and ask for prayer for healing?
About Laurel Coolbaugh:
Laurel is fueled through relational intimacy, beauty, and story. She has served ten years as Pastor at The Sanctuary at Woodville in Hopkinton, MA, and twelve years as a spiritual director. Her life is particularly graced by her husband of 38 years, Bill, and their adult son, Gethin.