Hills & Valleys of a Rachel's Vineyard Retreat
March 18, 2019
“Jesus saw her weeping, and he saw how the people who were with her were weeping also; his heart was touched, and he was deeply moved. “Where have you buried him?” he asked them. “Come and see, Lord,” they answered. Jesus wept. “See how much he loved him!” the people said.” John 11:33-36
Seventeen hearts deeply suffering from the wounds caused by their painful losses due to abortion decisions. Seventeen souls thirsting and hoping, yet firmly believing themselves unworthy of an encounter with their merciful and forgiving God. Seventeen people never expecting to receive an invitation to climb up into His embrace to have Him whisper in their ears that He loves them and wants them to be free of these chains of regret, shame, and pain once and for all.
This retreat, the largest in our history of 20 years, took us over the cliffs, through the valleys, and to the mountain top. This is the journey of our retreatants when they make themselves yourself vulnerable to God, handing Him the keys to their hearts and inviting Him in. Their guilt shrouded their hearts and filled them with fear. I reminded them that His light never goes out in us and cannot be overcome by darkness. He was always there and still is. With His light, all things would be seen -- all things, but nothing can make him turn away. Nothing! His light would heal them if only they would allow Him to see all, accept all and mercifully love all.
As we journeyed through their stories and their rocks of shame, guilt, anger, and despair were left by the wayside, I asked them to imagine a huge footprint in the sand. As we climbed down the scary side, the cliffs, we would get to the valleys of the desert where they may have felt abandoned, socially aborted, very much alone in spiritual leprosy. Then as they climbed to the other side, and felt His mercy flooding their heart, body, and soul, they could look back and see HIS footprint!! He has never left them alone!! They were walking in HIS footprint all along, even when they felt most abandoned and alone. They can see now that even on the cliffs of despair, the desert of isolation, and the labor of climbing upward with His help to the mountaintop of healing, it was ALWAYS HIS footprint, His love, they were in. He was there at each and every moment, and they were never alone. They were they never alone, they were always loved, and His light never went out.
On this retreat, we had the blessing of a kind, compassionate and loving retired priest. I sat next to him and for most of the retreat, I saw a tear running down his cheek as he listened to their pain. He was there when they recognized the light of Christ in their lives and realized that He had never left them alone…he was there when they lay down each identified rock that burdened their relationship with God. He was there when they told their stories, and he was there when the tears overwhelmed their words and choked their hearts with the memories of the child they could not ever hold. The tears of this compassionate priest flowed throughout the entire retreat, almost as if his tears were there to mercifully wash away all the pain, regret, and despair. He was always there with a kind word of encouragement, a merciful smile of and a reminder of God’s love for them.
I turned to look at this kind priest one last time during a somber moment when most there were in tears grieving their loss and releasing their pain. He was sobbing. Father was sobbing along with them as if he carried all their pain in his heart all at once. The team was concerned, but then we could see this was important. God had sent us the very image of Himself in this compassionate servant of His, joining them in their pain, sharing their pain, only to walk with them to healing.
When the retreat came to a close, one of the ladies who had come to us from another state shared….
”On this retreat, I was not alone. I was able to turn it all over to God and allow him to heal me….because he was here WITH us. I saw Jesus in that priest!!….and I knew he had come to be with each of us in our need, so he could lead us to His merciful healing. I know Our Lord is in the Eucharist….but I saw Jesus in this priest as well. He spoke to me, looked into my eyes, sat with me and cried with me, ate with me and told me stories of his life, and then he accompanied me as I named my children and claimed them as my own. On this retreat, Jesus truly walked with me as I spoke my despair, embraced my desert and reached for His mercy as I climbed towards Him. He was there. Sitting right beside me.”
Father could see that they had all been buried in tombs of shame, regret, anger, guilt, and despair. And he loved them right out of the tomb and back into the arms of Our Lord. God bless this humble and compassionate priest.
As we begin this 20th year anniversary for Rachel’s Vineyard™ Dallas, and we did so with our largest retreat ever, we also traveled to Houston to assist them with their new beginning of their first Rachel Retreat in Spanish. 20 years of God’s healing giving birth to a first year for them.
All wrapped in the healing and mercy of God.
Tags: abortion, healing, after abortion, rachels vineyard, retreats