How did you hear about the Spiritual Exercises?
Friends from St. Aidan’s Anglican Church had made the Spiritual Exercises Retreat in Every Day Life and I was intrigued by Ignatian imaginative prayer. I’d also read an interview with Andrew Garfield. He was required to make the Spiritual Exercises to prepare for a role as a Jesuit priest in the movie Silence. He wasn’t a Christian, but in making the Spiritual Exercises, he fell in love with Jesus!
I thought wow, if Andrew Garfield who wasn’t a Christian could fall in love with Jesus, how much more could I? I was intrigued! I wanted to know Jesus more and to learn more about His life and ministry. Besides, there was something missing in my prayer life. I wasn’t sure how to pray with Scripture and I didn’t know how to have a conversation with Jesus. I thought the Spiritual Exercises might offer a framework to learn how to pray and to learn how to love Jesus better.
The 9 month Retreat in Everyday life is a commitment. As a busy 24 year old, was it easy or difficult to make the time with studying, working, and friends?
When I started, it was challenging to find a routine. But the more I did it the sweeter the time became, until it became something I looked forward to every day. I loved using the gift of my imagination to place myself in Scripture and using my five senses to deepen the experience of being with Jesus and the disciples in the scene.
How did the prayer experiences effect your relationship with Jesus?
I grew to see what a kind and gentle leader He is. I definitely trust Him more and it’s deepened my desire to be with Him. I felt His joy in wanting to spend time with me and I even got to see His sense of humor in the gospels!
I often picture myself behind the cross and the work He did for me. I find safety and protection there. I feel more confident in His love of me and in His acceptance of me. So, I’m not striving as hard as I was. I have a deeper sense of peace because I’m not so worried about doing everything right. I know Jesus is constantly drawing me forward. It’s OK if I mess up because He’s helping me to move through sin patterns and attitudes. I’m not stagnant or stuck anymore.
How does this ‘drawing forward’ happen?
Spending time in prayer, reading scripture, reflecting on my experience in everyday life. I notice what is going on and where Jesus is extending grace and love to me and where He desires me to grow in those areas. I’ve discovered that self awareness is important, self condemnation doesn’t get me anywhere. Wanting to respond to Jesus invitation to come out of sin and receiving His grace to do so is more important.
Can you recall a time in the Spiritual Exercises where Jesus words touched you deeply?
I imagined myself being at the crucifixion. It’s always been something I’ve tried not to think about because it’s so painful. This time, I was deeply moved by Jesus saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Even in the midst of the most excruciating pain and humiliation, He was still able to love and think about others. He took care of His mother and talked to the thieves on the cross beside him.
How did the experience cause you to feel?
A lot of awe and wonder and a lot of love for Him. The Spiritual Exercises have made me really tender. I often cry when I read the Scriptures. I didn’t used to. I feel like I used to have an internal compass that was always pointed inside at me toward my self interests. Now it’s more often pointed outward toward Jesus. I feel like I’m much less focused on myself, I’m more drawn to Jesus and to focus on Him. I want to know what He’s thinking and feeling. How He’s calling me to partner with Him in my work, at school in my relationships with family and roommates. I don’t feel alone any more.
What would you to say to others in your age group about making the Spiritual Exercises?
I would say, that you definitely need to feel drawn and to have a desire to want to do it because it takes time and discipline. But it’s worth it! I’d definitely encourage friends at Church to go for it. Because Jesus is worth the time and the chances are they’ll fall more in love with Him.
Interview and Story by Lyn Morse-Brown / Photos by Tom Morse-Brown / MB Creative