Retreats are wonderful opportunities for serendipitous moments of insight. Stepping away from daily living creates a space to be more open and aware, and to get a different perspective on what is right in front of me.
The second morning of my recent retreat, I opened my prayer book and found a note a friend had sent a few years ago. I did not remember putting it there, but there it was.
My friend was reflecting on her desire to let go of wanting to be seen by others in some particular good light (good mother, good neighbor, etc.), and just to see herself as God sees her.
Her words touched my own struggle with my desire to be seen—just to be visible—and then also to be seen as good or successful or as possessing some other positive attribute.
My desire for others’ approval can motivate me to accomplish many things; it can also take up an inordinate amount of energy and leave me feeling anxious.
My friend’s note included a Celtic prayer:
“Be the eye of God dwelling within me.
Be the foot of Christ in guidance with me.
Be the shower of the Spirit pouring on me, richly and generously.”
The phrase “eye of God dwelling within me” caught my attention, and I spent some time that day and the next pondering what God’s eye would see through my eyes and also what God’s eye sees when looking at me.
For many years, I would not talk about my faith, believing it would be of little or no interest or particularly helpful or relevant. I believed that each person’s spiritual experience was as personal as mine. Plus, who was I to talk about how God blessed me? It sounded too bold—not humble at all.
My spiritual director gave me this definition of humility: Humility means telling the truth—being neither less than nor greater than I really am.
Her words deepened my pondering on who I am in God’s eyes, how God sees me.
The past seven years have been a time of great loss for me and each loss left me feeling more and more vulnerable. Being vulnerable is very uncomfortable for me, and I instinctively dealt with it by closing in on myself. With each loss, I added another layer to a protective shield around my heart, until my heart had become encased. In the process, I think I forgot who I am and whose I am.
In a dream one night, I had to climb through a barbed wire fence. Upon waking, it occurred to me that barbed wire is a fitting image for the protective shield around my heart—painful for me to climb through to be free or for anyone else to reach in.
I prayed for the grace to dismantle the shield around my heart, to unwrap the layers of barbed wire so that I can see as God sees and be the person God calls me to be.