10 June 2010

The 9 month Ignatian Retreat is Over! Kind of

 {spritz & crisps in Venice, Italy}

Last night marked my last group meeting for my 9 month Ignatian Retreat.  It's not over for me completely--I missed several weeks throughout the retreat so I have more to go before I finish the exercises.  I'll continue to meet with my spiritual director until I'm done.

But still, I feel an immense sense of accomplishment, a kind of passing through.  A big milestone!  J. was an absolute doll and surprised me with Campari mixers and recreated the Venetian Spritz aperitivo that I adored so much in Venice.  We toasted to the end of my 9 months and chatted about the meeting.

I'm not sure if anyone has ever said this before at group sharing time, but I shared that I had lost my "religion" so to speak.  A few weeks ago, one of the most significant things that happened for me was that I lost my religious identity.  I could sense the immediate shock and shrinking back of my fellow groupmates who had earlier said things like "This retreat has made me so proud to be Catholic!" or "Jesus is my Lord now, he's made me a better person!" I was clearly out of place.

For many, this retreat leads them in a direction they could not have foreseen.  And for me, it meant that I became less religious, not more.  I had harbored some anxieties and misgivings throughout the retreat, wondering if it was making me a religious nut by meditating on scripture every single day.  And the most unlikely thing happened--through meditating on scripture everyday and meeting with my incredible spiritual director, I experienced an authentic relationship with God, my self, and others that healed me of my wounds from religious oppression, and gave me the freedom to realize that I didn't ever need to have anything to do with religion again. I never thought that would happen.  It's one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

Of course, I need to clarify here.  When I say I lost my religious identity, I mean that I broke free of the need to define myself by religion--which had been a very important part of my life.  I was always trying to figure out what I believed and why and I finally accepted that I didn't believe most of Christian orthodox dogma and actually, all I cared about was having a loving relationship with God and my self.  To hell with dogma.  When you do a close reading of scripture, you realize that Jesus is so cryptic and bizarre that there is no way you're going to understand 100% of anything he's talking about.  And I reached a pivotal point in my contemplation when I realized that the Pharisees were so preoccupied with trying to figure out who Jesus was that when they couldn't, they decided to kill him.  I decided there and then that I didn't need to figure out Jesus, freak out about Jesus, or get worked up about whether I believed what he was talking about or not.  If the greatest gift that I've received from all of this is that I can be my true self, then I could give that to Jesus.  He can be whoever the hell he wants to be.  And I'll receive what I can from that.

See what I mean?  The Catholics and evangelicals in my retreat program looked at me like I might have the plague.

Does this mean that I'll stop being religious?  Maybe, at some point in my life.  But for now, I like being a member of the Episcopalian church and part of a larger community of radical Christians.  The thing is, it just doesn't define me anymore.  I know now that I can walk away from it whenever I want, without guilt or shame, and God will still be with me.  God is not contained by religion anymore.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a little behind in reading your blogs (obviously), but this blog is fascinating to me. I love reading about your process, and I love seeing you come alive...and what you write about doesn't shock me or freak me out. I simply love you hanna. You sound like you're in a good place