Turning off my cell phone was difficult. So was not listening to music, not having conversations (except 1 hour a day with a spiritual director), internet, and everything for eight days . . . but it was so worth it because I was able to pray in a way I never have before. I asked God more questions than I ever have in my life. And I heard him speak in the silence of my heart during my eight-day silent retreat.
The first few days of the retreat, the silence hurt because I was forced to think about and work through areas of my life that I was avoiding. I was fighting to hold on to worldly things. I desired good food, comfort, and having control of my future – if I gave God complete control He could take me places I have never been before and I didn’t know if I wanted to go there. “I could end up alone,” I thought.
However to my surprise, once I really entered into the silence, I didn’t feel alone at all because I knew that God was with me. Together, God and I went on bike rides around lakes and up mountains. We hiked together and joked with each other. At times He scolded me gently, I asked for forgiveness and He loved me in a way I have never been loved before. I felt beautiful, free, and even cute hanging out with Jesus.
During one of my holy hours on the fourth day I had a profound realization that I will never forget. As I meditated on Jesus healing the paralytic in the Gospel of Luke 5:17-26, I vividly pictured the entire scene as if I were really there. I placed myself in the scene as the paralytic in need of healing.
As I imagined my friends and family lowering me through the roof and placing me before Jesus, I offered Jesus all my sins, all my fears, and all my struggles that “paralyze” me. After going through a long list of sins in my mind, I moved to the next line in the passage.
What came next surprised me. It read, “You Are Forgiven.” I immediately questioned God, “Really? For all those things I’m forgiven?” I felt unworthy to be forgiven of everything I had done. Even though I have gone to confession many times and knew in my head that I was forgiven, I didn’t believe it in my heart.
Still questioning, I kept reading, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”(v.23-24).
Then it hit me.
How could I have so little faith? Of course I am forgiven – that’s what Jesus came to this earth to do – duh Annie. He came to free us from sin and nothing is too big for God. Of course He wants to forgive me no matter how long my list of sins is or how many times I have failed to follow God. Immediately, the shame of my sin fell away and peace, freedom, and overwhelming joy filled me. The feeling of extreme freedom I felt was probably similar to the way the paralytic felt in the gospel.
God’s word is so alive and relevant even 2000 years later. Continuing the meditation, I read the last line of the passage, “He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God.”
If I really believe I am healed, I thought, I should do the same thing. So I got up from my seat in the chapel and went home praising and thanking God for forgiving me.
I invite you to bring it all to Jesus, surrender it all – he’ll take you places you’ve never been before – its amazing.