The Red Lily

In September 2011, I had the incredible privilege of attending a directed silent retreat. God had placed this desire in my heart many years ago as I read accounts of other believers entering a time of silence and solitude. When the email invitation arrived last spring, I immediately signed up for an autumn week of silence and fellowship with the Father. Although I had much to pray about in my life, my desire was purely to sit at the feet of the Father and to enjoy the gift of uninterrupted time with my Creator. In fact, even before I left home, I committed to not use this time of solitude as a time of praying about difficult and painful circumstances. Instead, I desperately wanted to spend these minutes, hours and days connecting with the Father and savoring the joy of intimate fellowship. I shared with Kathy, my spiritual director, that I simply wanted to SEE how the Father SEES me. Of course, I had lived my 39 years with the knowledge that He deeply loves me and that His plans for me are good, but I really wanted my heart to see and believe the Father's heart for his little girl.

I entered the week with a watchman's eye and a quiet restful heart. Prior to going on this trip, my good friend who was also along side me in silence, had given me a book to read about a lady who had experienced the gift of a week alone with the Father. Her silence was spent in the wilderness, while my week was spent in a room at St. Ignatius in Atlanta. ( The rooms at St. Ignatius are sterile but the grounds are holy and anointed.) I was struck by the author's account of God's presence in nature, particularly calling birds to minister and reveal His presence. Our group entered silence prior to our first dinner together. The intimacy of community spent in silence is indescribable, an experience I will never forget. As I dined with both friends and strangers in complete silence, I looked up in the dining room and saw a hummingbird flying all around the room. I realize it sounds crazy, but I saw this tiny creature and sensed the Father had sent this hummingbird to reveal His presence. In my spirit, I felt like the Father was saying, "I am here. . . completely present, so much so that I will bring a beautiful hummingbird whose home is outside in trees and flowers into a dining hall." Just like God had spoken to the author of the book I read, He used a tiny bird to reveal His presence in my silent journey.

The week was a restful and glorious week, enjoying sitting under big oak trees, walking in the woods, and meditating by the river. The peace that I experienced as I communed with the Father was a small taste of heaven's eternal union. I journaled throughout the week, recording all that God was doing in my heart. My waking hours were consumed with writing, praying, and enjoying the beauty of the Father's creation. The fountain of His presence flowed over me in ways human words can not communicate. Some of my first journal entries were simply sharing how I see and experience Him and the Father would use His Holy Word to reveal how He sees me and experiences me. As I was reading through Psalms one morning, part of a verse struck me so profoundly that it was like the Father Himself spoke it directly to me. The verse was Psalm 18:19, "He rescued me because He DELIGHTS in me." It had never occurred to me before this moment that God delights in me. The Father used His Word throughout the week to reveal His heart of delight for me. It was beautiful and humbling, an unspeakable gift.

Each day I met with my spiritual director for 30 minutes, sharing about my time in silence. On Thursday morning, my last day at St. Ignatius, my director shared that she was going to ask the Father to give me something tangible to take back as reminder or "stone" of His delight for me. I embraced her words and left the session on the mission of finding this tangible stone of remembrance. I headed down the trail to the river looking all around for this symbol of His delight. I looked in the pine straw and leaves. I looked in dirt, trees, and bushes. I searched through pebbles and rocks amid streams. I was in constant thought and wonder of what this "stone" would be. I found some stones covered with a gold shimmer along a stream, and I considered this might be the gift. I even skipped lunch and stayed by the river looking for any sign from the Father. I watched butterflies flutter and geese fly but still did not discover this treasure. After five long hours of searching along hills, streams, and rivers, I walked back to the courtyard to await the daily communion hour. My time in silence would end in the morning. I sat in a wood chair next to a beautiful fountain and I journaled these words. . .

"Father, before the sun sets today, will You bring me a symbol of your delight to take back home? Manifest Your glory. Glorify Yourself. Show me Your great Name. Your Word says that You pursue. You are the pursuer. I wait on You alone. Time is drawing nigh. . . (turned to next blank page in journal). . . Looked up and saw a lily. . .What is the significance of this red lily, Father? I have not seen this lily before this moment. . . ."

After journaling those words, I looked back down to read Song of Solomon, the book of the Bible I was studying in a Bible study back home. I read this verse, "My beloved has gone down to His garden to the bed of spices, to graze in the gardens and to gather lilies. I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine. He grazes among the lilies." Song of Solomon 6:2-3  There are no words or expressions to adequately communicate what I experienced after reading these words from the Father. He had used His Holy Word to reveal that He is present amidst the lilies, that he dwells in the garden of lilies, and that He picks lilies for His beloved. I sat by this fountain staring at this one red lily and wept with deep groans of awe as I considered that my Father had given me, the bride of His heart, the most beautiful flower as a symbol of His delight. I had been searching in dirt, sticks, and rocks, but He patiently waited until the last moment to reveal His heart of delight for me. He did not desire for me to hold straw, tree bark, and dirty rocks, but instead He bloomed one beautifully perfect lily just for ME. He did not give me what I expected or even imagined, but my Father gave me far more than what I could have dreamed. He commanded one stem of lilies to blossom in the out-of-season month of September to reveal His heart of delight for His daughter. He wanted me to SEE that He SEES me as His beloved bride. I am my Beloved's and He is mine. I walked across the courtyard and picked this red lily as a symbol or "stone" of the Eternal Father's deep, deep love for me. I have SEEN, and I am forever changed.



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