I ask God to take me somewhere I can be with Him. Anywhere.
Suddenly I find myself in a garden. Wait… I think it’s THE garden. And it’s…. mesmerizing. I’ve never seen such vibrant colors before. Everything has a palpable sensation of life. My mouth begins to water at the abundance of fruit that dots the landscapes.
But only I am not myself as I am now. I am young, very young. A small child. We are swinging. He is swinging me, my body gently gliding back and forth, feeling the wind beneath my feet, between my hair. And I, I am giggling. Musical notes of laughter surround us, and I am enveloped in a joy that I can feel down deep to my core. He is delighting in this joy with me. The sound of His laughter is reassuring, protective, warm.
As I swing, I begin to see images of my whole life appear slowly before me. “Why?” I begin to wonder. I see the moment I was born (my parents in shock at the hair I came out with), nurses and doctors stopping to marvel at the gift of life and then carry out their usual routines. My own life continues to unfold before me…
Birthdays, family vacations, dance recitals, soccer games. Saturday morning cartoons, school programs, summer road trips. High school, awards, graduations, college. But there is something in those moments that I was never aware of before. In the stillness of each moment, I see it. The Father whispering in each moment, “Her. That’s My Daughter.”
I look down and the swing is gone. I find myself back in my teenage years. Still in the garden, I’m now in a long white dress, flowing out, just waiting to be twirled. Patterned all around it are purple flowers. “Uh…. what?” Actually God, I would never wear this. It looks something like circa middle school dance — Dillard’s style dress. You know, before girls stepped up their fashion game.
“I’d never buy this… Why this dress?” And then God, my Abba, knowing the intricacies of my heart and mind, turns and says to me, “White, because you are pure in my eyes. Purple, because you are royalty.” He twirls me around and around and now we are dancing. Jumping and rejoicing in life itself. Flowers abound all around us, and I realize that I am not the only one in the garden. I have never felt this freedom before. Freedom to just be. I pause. You know the kind of pause you take when you suddenly realize that joy and happiness is welling up inside of you? I stop to take in this scene.
Now Jesus is looking at me with a tender compassionate gaze. He seems to sense what I want to say next. I never want to leave here. “My daughter, this place is here for you always. But we need to fill it. This place will always be here, but the people in your life, they won’t,” He says, an agony filling the air, his face becoming clouded with a deep sadness.
“So go. Go and bring them here. To me. To sing, to laugh, to dance forever in the arm’s of the Father. I am always with you.”
I had the opportunity to attend a 3 day silent retreat entitled The Father’s House about a week ago. Although I was a little taken aback at the thought of three days of silence, it ended up being an incredible experience of healing and joy (and I actually really loved the silence). The above story was just one of the experiences I had in prayer, and in light of it being father’s day (well, kind of. Missed it by a little bit, hehe) I had the desire to share it.
I had never thought about my relationship to God the Father in light of my earthly relationship to my real dad before. My dad is a good man. He is a great man, and a wonderful father. Why should I ever even go there?
Even though we desire to give perfect love, inevitable, we fall short. Our human brokeness seeps through. And it honestly hurt me a little to realize that this man, good and selfless as he was and is, had in some ways, failed to fill certain voids in my heart. It hurt me to admit that even my parents were broken, and that I had to take them off of a pedestal that rightfully only belongs to God the Father.
I began to contemplate the parallels. My parents in their goodness and attempt to love me, had failed to refuse me much if anything. I carried this into my prayer life and how I related to God, becoming angry and throwing many a tempter tantrums when things were not going as I had envisioned or expected.
It hit me. My dad has never told me that I am beautiful. Not that I believe that my dad thinks I am not beautiful, but suddenly I began to realize so many truths that have never been vocalized to me, and how I carry them into that part of my heart that seeks and yearns to be known and loved. To be told that I am enough. And it clicked. In so many ways, light was shed on my relationship to God the Father, to my wounds, and to the blocks that kept me, and still sometimes keep me, from accepting myself as His beloved daughter.
But in His endless mercy and compassion, I am growing closer and closer to His heart, and coming to know His gentleness in a more profound way. Realizing that He doesn’t bring light to the dark parts of my heart to shame me, but to heal them and make them new.
Thank you fathers for the gift that you are. For the ways that only you can love and give of yourselves. For calling out our belovedness and delighting in us. We need you, we need your words of love. We need your protection and guidance, and all that you are.
If you have never tried Ignatian contemplation in prayer I highly recommend it! It is a game changer. (Thanks for that St. Ignatius. I am v grateful.)