(Originally published in MercySong E-news, Issue No. 11. To read more, click here)
I was blessed to start the new year on a hermitage retreat in the Catskill Mountains, usually my favorite kind of retreat. While I’m on one, I tend to be all St. Francis about being in nature, and value my long, daily walks outside. This retreat, however, happened very spontaneously and ended up being right in the middle of the coldest days of winter thus far. And 0-15 degree temps do not beckon one outside — at least not this girl! So, I realized that this was to be a different kind of retreat; that God wasn’t going to renew me through the beauty of creation, reminding me as I meandered leisurely on sunny paths, of the lilies of the field and His great care for me. Instead, it was going to feel cold and dark and desolate, like the stark, frozen landscape around me. But He always has something for us, and often uses our surroundings and circumstances to drive that “something” home.
It became clear as I stood in my hermitage one morning, all bundled up, holding a cup of tea, and watching the sun rise over the frozen lake and gray terrain. In those blessed moments of sunrise, the rays were brilliant and penetrating, transforming everything in sight. I closed my eyes and lifted my face, basking in the sunlight the way cats do at windows. Then, all too quickly, the sun just disappeared, hidden by the clouds of an overcast day — and the world was gray again. I smiled a little, “Ok, Lord, I get it. As sure as the sun is there behind those clouds giving light to the day, You’re there in every period of blah, every time of uncertainty, doubt, and struggle. You’re there like the sun, shining and giving warmth, even when we don’t see or feel Your Presence like those bright, penetrating rays moments ago.”
It was a nice, simple lesson, and as I reflected on the shadows in my life I’d been praying about, and looked out at the nondescript lake and rocks and trees, gray merging into gray, I felt a little better. Yeah, it’s nice to be reminded that you’re there, Lord; that knowledge helps. And then, as only the Spirit can do, my heart was moved. Filled. Enlightened. The “something” He had for me on this retreat wasn’t this; it was more.
He called me there to speak to me, not merely of His Presence, but of how His Spirit hovers over the desolate land as a potent and immutable force; how He is everywhere and in all things, all lives, all seasons, all circumstances as a transformative entity; that when your world seems bleak and weary, when you feel stuck or desolate, or the dark corners are robbing your peace; when your days lack purpose, and humanity lacks humanity, there is Christ in the midst of it all — not merely to be present, but wanting to draw you close. The tenderness of the Father’s mercy comes to touch the broken world, the broken people — and His touch restores. Restores what? Beauty. Union. Love. God doesn’t want to simply be present, He wants to draw us close enough to touch. He wants to draw us into the communion of Trinitarian Love. How? By transforming us little by little … through light, through dark, through gray.
The phrase from the Song of Songs that’s been working in me for months now is “Trahe me!” Draw me. When you realize that God wants to be intimately united with you, and start to live that out moment by moment, everything changes! It’s just staying there that’s hard. That’s why I love repeating this phrase. When He draws you, it doesn’t mean He’ll physically remove You from a difficult situation, or make it so you don’t have to deal with the things of this world. (Wouldn’t that be lovely!) But yet, it’s as if you enter an entirely different reality — in fact you do — and you see and feel the situation with a new perspective. An eternal one. And He is always there, waiting for you to more fully enter that union. Even when He seems far off and hidden.
My invitation is this: Ask Him to draw you. No matter how you feel, no matter what the circumstance. Let Him draw you into the power of His Presence. Let Him touch the broken places in you and transform them.
“Trahe me, Lord!” Draw me in times of joy when I am apt to forget You. Draw me through times of darkness and gray. Draw me after You. Draw me into You. Let me enter Your Light, Your Presence, Your love … Here. Now. Always.
This is Tomás Luis de Victoria’s “Trahe Me Post Te” (Draw me after you),
inspired by the Song of Songs. Victoria was Spain’s greatest Renaissance composer.