In July, I wrote about signing up to do the 19th Annotation Ignatian Retreat at the Sisters of St. Joseph in Orange, CA. Here is an update one month after my start in September.
When I first met with my spiritual director, I was nervous, a little agitated, and wondering if this was going to work out. You see, I expected to meet with a liberal white nun at the convent, not a middle aged Korean medical doctor in her dusty and cluttered medical office 45 inconvenient minutes away from my house.
I had so many stereotypical concerns. Was she going to give me unsolicited advice? Was she going to say really blunt things? Was she going to be an extension of my mom? And why did I get paired up with her anyways? When Sister Barbara, the director of the program, asked me at orientation if I needed the Korean handout (after I had had an interview with her in English), my suspicions were confirmed. They paired me with a Korean because I'm a Korean! It felt like one of those unfair, annoying, discriminatory moves that happens to me from well meaning people.
The first few sessions with my director were OK. There were some red flags. She advised me on how to choose a church for my unborn children. She told me I was unconventionally blessed to be married to a man that supported my spiritual journey as well as J. did. When I shared my treasured vocational dreams and realizations with her, she said, "You're excited and emotional right now and that doesn't mean it's God. You need to keep praying." Kill me now.
I wondered if I should switch and in fact, many of my friends told me I should. But I decided to give it one more chance, and I'm glad I did.
In the past, spiritual directors have jolted me with their insights. They have made me cry uncontrollably with their very presence. They have given me their progressive and liberal encouragements to flee fundamentalism and evangelicalism and love myself. They have shown me a God that I longed for and couldn't name.
My director didn't really do that. Sometimes, she did the opposite and reminded me of what I did not want to be hearing. But as the weeks progressed and we delved into the Ignatian scripture meditations that were outlined for me each week, I sensed the value of her wisdom and guidance. Ignatian retreat direction is very specific--she helps me stay committed to the one hour of scripture meditation and prayer each day and helps me talk about it and see God in my experiences. Within that structure, our relationship comes alive.
The Ignatian experience, like life, is fluid. There are lows and highs. Last week, a day did not go by that I did not cry from despair. You see, the scripture meditations were bringing up my fears and it was quite gutting. Thank God for surfing--it cleared my head and helped me get back to it instead of abandoning the practice.
Then, there are the highs. Facing my fears opened my heart to receive God's love and this week, I received God's presence and peace in deeper than deep ways, along with a beautiful vision for my life. These have been beautiful and unforseeable times, and I have been seeing that God's love can drive out my greatest fears and give me immense freedom to follow my heart.
I am on my fourth week of the 9 month retreat. I have met with my spiritual director seven times and the rest of the program retreatants twice. 8 more months to go. Each day, I struggle to do the meditations, and I struggle to do them for a full hour. But it's getting easier as time goes on and in some ways, it feels like learning to ride a bike. I'm learning to pedal without falling down, and I'm looking forward to riding with the wind on my back.