Thursday, March 5, 2015

Complete Abandon

This coming Easter I will celebrate two wonderful years since becoming a Catholic. My sponsor/godmother/dear friend told me that she would like to pay my way for me to go on a Catholic woman's retreat as a gift. The next retreat was the following September and was the exact weekend of my due date with Amaryn. It wasn't yet meant to be. Of course, the two scheduled retreats after that weren't meant to be either because of nursing and babyhood. These retreats are four days and three nights long, so not exactly mommy-to-a-nursing-baby friendly. 

I realized a couple of months ago that the upcoming retreat in March may actually work out for me to attend. It's not on my due date for starters (I'll be about 7 months along), I'm not nursing a baby and both girls can go without me for a few days, plus it's during Jason's Spring Break which is perfect. I know that very soon I'll have a newborn yet again and a retreat just won't be a possibility for a while. It just may be perfect timing. But isn't God's timing ALWAYS perfect?! Of course it is.

So...I've been eagerly awaiting this retreat for two years and finally I'm able to go and I'm anticipating it's arrival in three short weeks. Then the letter came. A supposedly innocent letter containing innocent information about the upcoming retreat. What to expect, where to park, where to meet-up the first nightwhat to bring, and what not to bring. And that's where it all came crashing down. It read:

"You will be on God's time for the weekend away from the outside world for a change, so we ask you to leave your cell phones, alarm clocks, computers, tablets, iPads, iPods, beepers, radios, etc. at home-even your watches!"

Leave my cell phone?! Wait, seriously? But what if there's an emergency? Oh, there's an emergency contact. But still. I need to check in with Jason. It's for 3 long nights...what about calling my kids and telling them goodnight? I've never been away from them for that long. That's an unfair and unreasonable request. I can't believe they would ask such a thing! It's hard enough to get away for 3 whole nights but that's not enough, now I need to leave behind all forms of communication as well?! I don't like this. This is crazy!! 

Yeah. So, that's been festering in my mind for the past week. This week I've found that I'm not so excited to go on the retreat. I'm actually quite unexcited about it. I'm apprehensive and uncertain, even untrusting all of the sudden. I feel defensive, angry, and resentful. My attitude and mood has done a 180* flip in regards to the retreat. 

So today I finally decided to pay some attention to these festering feelings. First off, my feelings in response to this letter weren't exactly godly. Clue number one that maybe I'm in the wrong here. As I took some time to pray, reflect, and write in my journal, the Holy Spirit began filling my mind with Truth from the Bible. The Gospels alone are filled with Jesus' calling men to give up everything and follow Him. This is of course true in His calling of the disciples. Jesus also tells a man to sell all he has and follow Him. He tells another who wants to first go and bury his father to let the dead bury themselves and follow Him. He tells us to pick up our crosses and follow Him. It's a common theme in the passages of the New Testament and it continues into our lives as Christians today. (See Matthew 4:18-20; Luke 5:11 27-28; Mark 1:19-20; Luke 18:22-23; Luke 9:59-60.)

I have now come to the realization that maybe this is about much more than being asked to leave my cell phone behind or not talk to my family during the retreat. After all, isn't that what a retreat is? To retreat. To leave behind, to move back, to withdraw, a quiet and secluded place to rest and relax. 

Our society is so very connected to everything. Not only have we learned to be near our devices constantly or nearly constantly, we are expected to. I think that God is always calling us to be less connected to the world and more connected to Him. Practicing detachment is HARD. In the Fall I felt God's soft and gentle call to detach from Facebook and Instagram. It was hard and at times still is. It may not be forever and I may prayerfully decide to connect with friends and family through those means again someday, but it has been a wonderful separation in many ways. It's freeing to not know what everyone is thinking, feeling, and doing. It's edifying to not be comparing my life with the lives of others so easily by putting the lives of others before my eyes so often of the time. It's rejuvenating to not have something I feel drawn to check constantly throughout the day. It's nice being private and just living my life not for anyone but God, my family, and myself. Now maybe God is bringing this detachment thing a little further. I didn't think it would be hard for me to give up my phone...but then again it is for 3 whole nights. So maybe I'm learning that's where I'm inclined to draw the line. But I don't want to ever draw the line with God. I don't want to hold back with God or be willing to only give up things for Him conditionally. WE ARE TO LIVE OUR LIVES IN COMPLETE ABANDON FOR CHRIST! A dear and wise priest I know often says this. Complete Abandonment. We go ALL IN. We JUMP SHIP. We LEAVE IT ALL BEHIND. 

I don't want to be one that says "Amen!" in agreement to these things and then when God says "Great, glad to hear it because...
~I want you to quit your job for another of lesser pay
~I want you to stop using contraception and be an advocate of life
~I am allowing you/a loved one to suffer illness and pain
~I want you to stop watching those movies/TV shows that mock and ridicule My Truth
~I am giving you a special needs child
~I am not giving you children
~I want you to leave your cell phone behind for a few days 
and to do so and accept these things obediently and joyfully for My names sake."

I completely realize the last one there is pretty pathetic in comparison to the other examples...but you get the point. This is a good question to ask ourselves and even our Lord: Where am I tempted to draw the line and back away, becoming resentful and angry that I would be asked to do such a thing/carry such a burden? 

So I'm asked to detach from my phone for a few days. That will most likely be a very good thing. Distraction is a key tool of Satan's to deter us from The Lords calling. It can often be very successful, but we have the choice to not let it be. Turning off our devices and retreating to God, even in our homes for a few minutes, is sure to be a good thing. Every time I do so God is faithful in meeting with me (James 4:8).

In reality, all this upset almost had me forgetting what a gift and blessing this retreat truly is. It's not often that I'll be able to do this kind of retreat, especially with the demands and responsibilities that come with raising young children. And that's OK, but when God does give me the opportunity, I want to be fully present and receive the gift joyfully and open to whatever God speaks to me while there. I think because it is such a rare occurrence and opportunity during this stage in life is even more reason to truly enjoy it. What a gift that my husband has the week off and can take full command on the home front! That he's even willing to use his time off in that way is a huge gift (AND during March Madness! I mean, seriously, he's SO selfless!). What a gift...normally a few minutes of peace and quiet is a rarity with young children running around (though their "noise" is beautiful in it's own way), but here I am getting an opportunity for DAYS of peace and quiet and time with my first love. Recently Jason and I were blessed with a getaway weekend while his parents watched the girls. We had 2 nights together away and it was SO rejuvenating and refreshing for our marriage! We do try and make time for date nights pretty often which is super important but it is different when you get an extended period of time without distraction to focus on one another and on God together. If that's so important for our marriage, how much more so with our relationship with God?! Again, such a huge gift! It's pretty silly that I could have missed out on that gift with something as petty as being asked to leave my phone home. It's actually quite refreshing that these woman care so much about my time with The Lord that they would go to such lengths to guard it. It is a sacred and holy thing when we spend time seeking God and Him seeking us. It should be guarded at all costs. We should give ourselves in complete abandonment for Him and His Truth. Go all in. Jump Ship. Leave it all behind to follow Jesus.