The first week of Lent is coming to an end and I’ve really enjoyed the season so far. I’ve been enjoying more dedicated time for prayer, reflection, and prayer walking in the community. I have also ended up being led into engaging with one of Ignatius of Loyola’s ‘First Exercises’ which is a 24 day guided retreat, taking around an hour per day. It has been a really valuable exercise, especially today.
One of the prayer exercises was to ‘contemplate’ my own birth…to imagine the scene, who may have been around, what emotions there may have been, and to imagine myself held, celebrated and loved. The prompt said ‘…and imagine your mother and father’s love towards you.’ That stopped me in my tracks. You may know that I didn’t really know my father growing up as he left when I was I baby. But, I’d never before imagined him even being present at my birth or indeed how he might have loved me. I remember the experience of each of my own children, holding them in their early hours, and knowing that I couldn’t possibly love them any less and so I could relate to how my father may have felt. But for the very first time, I conceived of the idea that he was there and that he felt something!
I have a restored relationship with my dad now, and I now know him to be a loving dad. However, with him being absent all those formative years, I received a wound. Some would call it a father wound. It translates as trouble with ‘rejection’ that I’ve spent so much time working through over the years. I was so pleased to welcome my father back into my life at the age of 18, and I don’t hold anything against him, but all those years of wondering what he was like, where he was, and what life might have been like if he was around left an ache. And, as a young boy, I wasn’t really helped to see him positively at all so I went through life with a bad image of a father and then the sense of betrayal of having discovered he wasn’t at all as black as he was sometimes painted.
I mention this because it is a huge issue for people, whether their parents were present or not. Even with the best intentions, we can mess each other up and there is such a strong need for open conversation and extra effort in considering how we deal with one another. I don’t speak as a saint in this department because, inevitably, not having been fathered well meant huge challenges in fathering myself.
In spite of all that, the next part of the prayer exercise was to then imagine God’s Spirit hovering around me at birth…whispering confirmation that I am God’s beloved son, someone made in the image of God and crowned with glory and honour (Psalm 8). I was then invited to take a selfie and just consider my face! Such a blessing to sense the Fatherly-love of God in that moment. I was then invited to consider how I’m made in the image of God and, like all creation, I’m a gift of love to the world.
Lots of this ‘theology’ is something that one knows in theory. It can take time for the truth to infiltrate…some of which we need reminding of, some we need to hear for the first time. Maybe you could spend some time reflecting on how the Father sees and loves you…you magnificent person, you! ;o)