The theme for my current place in the retreat is encountering Jesus. And you know what, that has actually been profound and good. I've learned to differentiate Jesus from religion, and that has made me feel so much happier.
The biggest theme for this entire retreat has been freedom. I'm sure everyone has their own personal themes but that is mine without a doubt. I have felt so oppressed by Christianity yet drawn and it's made me feel a bit mental until recently. Now I know that I'm drawn to Jesus and turned off by religion. And I am A-ok with that.
The thing I love about my spiritual director is how much she respects my space and personal integrity. Today, I met with her and talked with her about my concerns regarding the concept of "call." I'm always paranoid that I'll be called to something that will absolutely gut me and that leaves me liking God not very much at all. Really, it's enough to want me to abandon ship and become a great free floating agnostic or simply a "spiritual" person with no ties to any religion.
So when she told me that this whole process is about learning to be more alive, to have more interior freedom so that the we experience freedom instead of a narrow choice, I had to point out that in the exercise I had just completed, it said that I should willingly follow Jesus and suffer for his glory.
I said, "See here, this word? It says suffer. That sounds like the complete opposite of feeling alive."
So Mary expanded. She said, "Suffering can actually bring you joy if it's done with honesty and integrity."
Something clicked. She went on, "There's a rightness to it--that you're doing something that is truly who you are and you're freely doing it. It's very concrete--God takes into consideration everything about you, your life experiences, the things that have shaped you since childhood. Calling, even if there's suffering in it, will be about who you are. It won't be disjointed. You will have integrity, honesty, and a sense of rightness."
"Ahhh," I said. "So, the time when I was doing that inner city ministry and told to "suffer like Christ did" but in my head I was thinking, this is absolutely nuts and I do not agree with this in any way--that was suffering that was disjointed, had no honesty, no sense of integrity, and no sense of rightness."
"Exactly," said Mary.
I love that phrase: There's a rightness. Mary says that one a lot. Along with the words freedom and alive.
Right now, I feel complete freedom to be whoever, do whatever, but also just be. Be who I am. I've been reading a lot of Mireille Giuliano lately and she has this phrase she loves to repeat:
"beau dans sa peau"It means, being comfortable in your own skin. That, Mireille says, is the key to the French woman's success in life and business (she's the former CEO of Veuve Cliquot). I really really love that phrase too.
To you reader, I wish for you what Mary said God wants for us. I believe it when I say it. Be alive. Be fully alive. Act with honesty and integrity. Be who you are. Respect that feeling of rightness. Listen to your body. Be grounded. Accept your self. Experience complete interior freedom. Beau dans sa peau.