This year, as Advent began, I wasn’t feeling ready. I just couldn’t get into the spirit of Advent.
I talked with my spiritual director about it. We troubleshooted. I had been sidelined by illness for three months straight and unable to attend Mass or gather with my prayer group. I felt isolated. Yet I still felt God’s abiding presence. My spiritual director said not to worry but advised I keep praying.
So, I kept praying.
One evening, I imaginatively asked St. Ignatius in prayer what I should do. Agere contra, or “to act against,” came to mind.
Lord, help me to work against it.
The next day, I got an e-mail from a friend inviting me to a weekday Advent retreat. I had way too much work to do. Yet I felt tugged. I planned to say “no,” but a “yes” rolled off my tongue. I went to the retreat battling that “no” the whole way—so much so that I arrived 15 minutes late.
Lord, help me get into the spirit of Advent.
At the retreat, I imagined Jesus sitting next to me on the couch. The words came tumbling out. There was more there than I had realized, and it was taking up space—space where I wanted to be storing up the good things in my heart. I prayed boldly.
I really want that blanket!
Huh? Had I really just asked Jesus for a blanket? Really?
A little backstory: earlier that week I had entered a raffle for a blanket that a Benedictine Sister had knitted by hand. I really like hand-knit blankets.
I set aside thoughts of blankets and left the retreat feeling nourished. One of the themes of the retreat, “the God of Surprises,” really resonated with me. I had found the Spirit and was ready to enter into Advent.
The next afternoon, as I was dusting my windowsill, I noticed a box on my front step. The return address said, “Benedictine Sisters.”
No. It couldn’t be.
I opened the box, and there was the knitted blanket I had asked for when I was praying. Tears of astonishment welled up in my eyes.
I stood there remembering other times when I have prayed boldly, baring my heart to God in unfiltered prayer. Whenever I have been able to open up, believe, and trust, the God of Surprises has done wonderful things for me, things that I could never accomplish with any amount of planning. I haven’t always received exactly what I’ve asked for, but sometimes I have received more than I could have thought to ask!
In his Gospel, Mark tells us to go one step further in prayer: “So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (11:24) That sounds like bold prayer to me!
I invite you to pray boldly. Pray your heart; don’t filter it.
And believe expectantly. The God of Surprises does not disappoint.
Thanks Rebecca for being so right. Indeed, the God of surprises does not disappoint.
Hi Dr. Coelho,
Yes, he certainly does not disappoint! We shall await God’s blessings in abundance this new year! Peace to you.
Rebecca, somehow your stories always touch me. I feel a spark when I see your name. You affirm me. I love Jesus sitting beside you at the retreat you didn’t want to attend. Merry Christmas.
Thank you for your note. I’m so glad my stories resonate with you. Your kind words also affirm my writing ministry – thank you! I also really like your noticing about Jesus sitting beside me at the retreat. Peace!
How wonderful, Rebecca….snuggle in. I’m so happy for you.
Hi Mary Ann,
Thank you. I am! : ) Peace!
I love this, Rebecca!
Thank you for your comment. AMDG!
This so resonated with me. This year has been very rough.. I am praying boldly for peace!
I’m glad it spoke to you. Prayers for a new year of peace and abundant blessings.
Thank you for sharing your uplifting story! It was a much needed reminder to stay connected to God during a difficult time in my life. Christmas blessings and peace in the New Year to you and your family.
Thank you. I’m so glad it resonated with you. Peace to you and yours this new year.
Thanks for telling of your advent struggle and sharing ignatius’ agere contra. I’ve been desiring to put all my trust in God and not doing, worrying about our alcoholic son, doing fine, in remission and building up his practice as a gifted therapist. He’s not with us now but memories of events connected with his addiction came flooding in. At the same time I’m making creighton’s 34 week retreat starting it to coincide with the daily liturgy, last September. Sailing along this interruption of anxiety makes me feel fraudulent until I read your experience of our God of surprises which has led me to contact a close friend of my son who says all is well. He has been laid low with a heavy cold which is why he hasn’t been in touch as usual. This news has knocked me sideways thinking he had relapsed and was dying in hospital as before on so many occasions in the past. I should have practised my agere contra and put my desire back in place to place ALL MY TRUST in the Lord. Bit iof a shake up from self serving notions! God bless Pat
Thank you for sharing. Sounds like you’ve had a lot on your heart – so much to lay at the foot of the Cross. Prayers for you on your 34-week retreat. Peace.
Beautiful reflection! This is the second reflection I have read this advent suggesting to pray boldly and expect good gifts from our Lord. May I be ready to do that and receive them.
Hmm…the second reflection in a short amount of time. Might it be a God-nudge to pray boldly? : )