Some years, my week-long silent retreats are days of rest, prayer, meditative walks and feeling God’s presence. Other years, some old wound in need of healing is revealed. This year’s retreat was the latter.
On the fourth night, I attended a Healing Service. The presider talked about the difference between being cured (disease is gone) and healed (disease is still there but attitude toward the disease is transformed).
He talked about holding grudges and how doing so is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
None of this was new to me.
Then he shared a story from his university days in Europe, and I felt resentful. “Lucky you,” I thought, and then I remembered that I had gone to Spain when I was in college. Why would I resent his time in Europe? It made no sense.
That night, I had a dream—one I had had before—about not knowing my place, about overstepping my bounds.
“The bear got poked,” I told my spiritual director.
I told her how I noticed my resentment during the healing service and how it had surprised me. And then I started to cry. Tears from some deep place, pouring out as if a scab had been ripped away from a wound.
I try to pay attention to when I am angry, and I try not to hold grudges. So how had I not noticed that my snide comments and eye-rolls were a sign of resentment or envy?
My director talked about how grudges can come from old hurts that seemingly have nothing to do with the current situation. She suggested I reflect on hurtful events from my past and try to get some distance from my emotional entanglements to them.
That night, I saw three deer walking along the edge of the woods. Deer are a sign for me of God’s presence, and in that moment, I felt comforted in the reminder that God is with me on this journey.
The next day, I walked to the wetlands and just as I was about to sit down on the dock, I noticed two deer about twenty feet away, partially hidden by the brown reeds. They looked at me but did not run. I sat down and watched them.
After a few minutes, they disappeared into the woods.
I remembered my walk through the woods my first day of retreat and how the undergrowth made the woods seem impenetrable. Yet the deer we able to enter.
I took a walk through the woods and felt that God was inviting me to look again at the undergrowth, but with a softened gaze so I could see beyond what appeared to be a mess—like those optical illusions that require soft eyes to see the hidden picture.
With soft eyes, I can see that the deer are hiding in plain sight.
With soft eyes, I can see that God, too, is right in front of me, desiring to heal my wounds.