Written by Anton Flores-Maisonet
From Thanksgiving 2012 to Labor Day 2013, I had the opportunity to take a “soft” sabbatical. This is the last of two reflections on those nine months. To read part one, click here.
This pilgrimage of the soul was also a call to emptiness. In a world full of overbooked schedules in pursuit of significance, to spend nine months with a relatively empty itinerary was challenging. In fact, the reason the sabbatical was nine months rather than, say, one year, is reflective of my calendar-driven life and its relentless demands.
To have experienced an emptying of Self for nine months, however, does call to mind a reverse pregnancy of sorts. For when God invites us to deny ourselves and take up our cross, it is an invitation to imitate Christ who, “emptied Himself” so that something beautifully redemptive may be born again.
By emptying myself of human initiative and self-propelled leadership, I invited the Holy Spirit to fill me with God’s initiative and Lordship. Emptiness is the cup from which we drink our humility; it is the towel of surrender to a loving Christ whose divine obedience and death gives us the capacity to love as He loved. During my sabbatical I wrestled with the demons of temporal power and prestige and was invited to take Jesus’ nail-pierced hand and surrender.
I wrote this essay during the final weekend of my sabbatical. I decided not to end my period of rest with a bang but to end it without even a whisper. I chose to seal this special gift in the silence and solitude of retreat at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. God not only transcends our darkness with Light and fills our emptiness with love; God speaks in our stillness.
In my stillness I know God, not with my intellect, will, memory, or even my imagination. I know God in my spirit as I still myself and allow God to initiate communion with me. Thanks to this time of sabbatical, I have found the praying of the Psalms and centering prayer to be places where God leads me beside still waters and refreshes my soul. Now, in a corner of my bedroom is a place I have devoted to prayer where I light candles, incense, and wait in holy expectation.
I was once a major caving enthusiast. Nearly every weekend I would don my coveralls, helmet and light and venture deep into the underground realms of this mysterious place we call Earth. In the dark stillness of a cave I found a strange, womb-like comfort and was drawn to its unique beauty.
With my sabbatical now over, I only begin a new sojourn. While the darkness of my days may not always be desirable, I may find rest knowing that whether or not God brings Light, God is there in my darkness. And as God calls me daily to empty myself, may I humbly fall to my knees and crawl into God’s lap where I find a God who is the helmet of my salvation, saving me even from my own will.
Lord, I will trek deeper into this mysterious place called your heart. Empty my hands and open my heart so I may experience deep communion with You. I want to be still and know.