by Danetta Kellar
This past weekend I attended a silent retreat at an old Abbey of the Order of St. Benedict. Tucked away in the wilds of Florida, the monastery stands beckoning gently to the reflective life, a life devoted to quieting one’s soul before God. I drove many hours to experience that solitude, to escape the noise of my life and listen for God. This is my meager attempt to describe the indescribable. God was waiting for me, and I am changed.
I sat on a grassy hillside, the wind whipping through my hair and making the trees clap. They must have been applauding the drama unfolding before them, a girl with all straight lines and tidy corners being completely undone, made into a beautiful mess. The undoing of perfectionism and performance has a rare beauty of its own. We received a standing ovation as creation witnessed my Lord’s disassembling of me.
Alone with the wind, the trees, and my Bible, I looked straight into the eyes of Love Himself and found that I never knew He loved me before that moment.
I thought I knew He did. The Bible tells me it is so. I have sung about it, studied it, taught it, even gotten a seminary degree in it. All the while, as the knowledge piled up, my self-worth grew bereft and bankrupt. Something was not connecting. It haunted me in the dark and quiet moments alone with my thoughts, my truth. Cognitive assent could not produce soul-living reality.
As I learned more about His love, I grew more desolate inside. Why didn’t I feel loved? Why did I still hear the voices of Rejection and Abandonment, declaring my identity as one unlovable, resonating throughout the empty halls of my soul?
How cruel is it that the voice of abuse and trauma can drown out the voice of Love most days, at least in the hearts of the broken and discarded? Why were those lying voices so much easier to feel and believe?
In desperation, I fled. I fled from the noise, the press of so many needful things. I ran to the hillside, hundreds of miles from home, to face God.
When daybreak came, Jesus stood on the shore. However, the disciples did not know it was Jesus. John 21:4
In the dim light of my transformation from night to day, I did not recognize Him at first. My eyes were accustomed to darkness. I was distracted, laboring over the nets of my own making and mending, looking to my own efforts to sustain my life. If I am good enough, I will be lovable. If I perform well enough, I will be loved. With intense concentration, I worked, and worked, and worked.
Then I felt it. A tidal wave of Love so fierce it threw me on my back. I stared unblinking at the endless blue sky. His love was a power so furious that it reached me before I could see Him. I was immobilized.
As I cried out garbled praise to the one who held such glory, He took my hand like a lover. The intimate conversation that followed in hushed and quiet tones restored my soul. He showed me everything in his fierce and fiery gaze of Love. I was consumed.
Before, I thought this journey in life was about my love for Him.
I have taken great pains to love Him well. But my failures and unfaithfulness have laid me so low that my good intentions have born only the fruit of self-focus and narcissism, wrapped up nicely in a disguise of spirituality and godliness. My attempts to be good have only created distance between me and the liberating love my soul craves.
I know now that this journey is actually and truly about His love for me. All else is engulfed in that one startling Truth.
Get alone with God. Run to the mountains, flee! Go away to the hills and find solitude and silence. Disentangle yourself from the cluttering, clinging cares that make Love a concept and not a reality for you. Take time to listen to the Beloved. He has something very personal to say to you. Don’t miss it in the noise.
He loves you, and nothing else matters.