Retreat Notes: Relationship Talk

It was pure grace making a private retreat at the Oregon Coast where many of the pivotal moments of my faith journey have been set.  This wondrous spot of beauty--I often say God had loads of fun making this place where mountains and forest meet ocean--is a convenient drive from Portland where I lived in my 20s and early 30s.

Before I came back to the active practice of the Catholic faith of my childhood, I would spent quiet solitary weekends at the coast.  In the quiet, quite unexpectedly, I found God.

After I miraculously found myself attending Church each week--and becoming an RCIA sponsor, Sunday School teacher, peace and justice commission chair, and pastoral council member to boot--I had far fewer free weekends to spend on the coast.  But there were a few memorable ones.

Like the time I was walking along the beach and, wham, from out of nowhere, came the idea, the thought, the inkling ... "Susan, you should be a Catholic Sister."  Hold on there, what was that? Me?  Sure I'd come back to the church in a big way, but me, a nun? No way. With each crashing wave, the thought became harder to ignore.  So, I decided it was too cold to walk on the beach anyway and went to the little coffee shop instead to drink a warm beverage and read the paper.  Guess what one of the lead stories was in the New York Times? Yep, something about the renewal of women's vocations to religious life in the Catholic Church.  No joke.  I didn't sign up right away.  It took awhile longer.  

There were other solitary weekends, including some after my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and then after she died.  The ocean has soaked up some of my tears.  The rhythm of the waves ... in and out ... echoed the memories of my mom.  She so loved the ocean.  She would watch the waves for hours on end, a habit I've picked up from her. God's persistent love, like the waves, washes over me.  Again and again.

There were  retreats, including a vocation retreat just down the road from where I made my retreat this week with a group of sisters that I ended up not joining (even if they own a house right on the ocean!). It was an important moment in my vocation journey though, and helped me to realize that I am meant to be a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace.

On the third day of this year's annual retreat, I wasn't necessarily thinking of all these pivotal moments.  But walking on the beach where so many of them took place, the stage was set.  My relationship with God in many ways is rooted here.  I need God.  And God responds to my need, my desire, with God's own love and desire, as big or bigger than the ocean and just as persistent.

There's a song by Ben Kweller called "I Need You Back." It's catchy, and no doubt recounts a break up of the interpersonal kind.  Often when I'm driving long distances, this song comes on in my music mix.  I usually crank up the volume and belt out the words along with Ben.  "Hey! I need you back .... to take away all of my pain, and then my fear.  Hey! I need you back .... I'm so lost without you."  When I'm singing the song at the top of my lungs, I know it's God that I need. 

Back to the ocean.  I got some great photos of the waves crashing on the rocks.  It seemed a perfect image.  I need God, but sometimes God needs to crash over me for me to wake up to God's loving and abiding presence (again).  Hard to explain with words ... so here's Ben and some of the photos I took.  Enjoy!

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