During spiritual direction at the retreat at St. Meinrad’s in Indiana, I was asked to visualize being on a road with Jesus. Where was he, in relation to me? Then I was to imagine I found something on the road that was interesting. Do I show it to Jesus? Do I have to run to him to show it, or does he have to catch up? Or do I just point to it and hope he figures it out?
I don’t normally like to spend a lot of time with these visualizations. I usually feel very self-conscious doing play-pretend as an adult. I’m also a little afraid that I’m going to be smacked down – that this is a trap. It wouldn’t be the first time that a religious leader has purposely tried to make me look silly – and thus shame me into silence.
But I decided to a) be brave and trust and b) not go with my usual habit of trying to get to the good part too fast. I’m not very good with waiting in the stillness of time that it takes for things to gel. Jesus and I are working on that.
I imagined I was walking on a dusty, rocky road, like the Camino de Santiago. I was walking ahead, and Jesus was behind me. He was far enough away that conversation would have to be in gestures and shouts, but we could still see each other.
I saw a rock that was interesting and decided to wait for him to catch up to show it to him. There were a lot of rocks on the road and I wanted to make sure he saw this specific one, because it was so different.
When he caught up with me and I showed him the rock, he smiled and said “Yes, I put that there for you to find.”
And my mind was blown. How? He was behind me. But this is Jesus. Jesus transcends time and space. Jesus is everywhere. He is before, behind, above, below, and within me.
Where I’d been wondering about him being behind me – aren’t I supposed to follow him, and not the other way around – he answered it. He was behind me to watch me, to make sure I stayed on the path. He was behind me to make sure I didn’t turn to the left or the right. He was behind me to support me, to help me.
Years back, he had to be in front, but I watched his walk and matched my pace to his. Now I can walk ahead and see new things. My view is unobstructed. I can go to new places, because he has shown me how.
The Walk isn’t about doing the same old things again. It is a pattern, not a map. You aren’t supposed to recreate his life, like a diorama, like a museum. It has to be a living path.
The retreat theme was about rocks – about us being the living stones of the Church, about how even the stones would cry out if Jesus made his disciples be silent, about how we are like geodes – that being cracked open reveals our beauty. I’d decided to take pictures of different examples of stones to meditate on, and took this one before the silent direction time.
It was only later when I was looking at my pictures again that I noticed the one almost in the center that has a cross shape, revealed inside the rock itself.
I went back to that area several times to try to find this rock, to take it home. In a way, I’m glad I didn’t find it. It is important to not iconize things, to not be weighed down by them. It is the One who left me the stone in the visualization and in real life that is to be noticed. The stone is just a symbol. Symbols have to point to the thing – they aren’t the thing. The trouble comes when we focus on the symbol. That becomes idolatry.
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