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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Cowell

My Advent-ure

God, it seems, has invited me on an Advent-ure!

When we were planning topics for the next couple of months, for our Saturday morning Soul Space, I suggested this one for the first Saturday in advent, just because it was a bit of pun on the word 'advent' and might leave quite a bit of space for reflections in different directions. Little did I realise that I was leaving myself breadcrumbs to follow in the weeks to come.

It is my experience that God often speaks through the confluence of things coming together, building a theme. Sometimes there is genuine coinciding of things in unusual ways. Sometimes I think it's just that our inner awareness leads us to notice stuff that we might otherwise have missed. Like when you buy a new car and the model you are driving goes from being really rather rare to incredibly common just because you're noticing. Both are legitimate. Both are worth listening to. Just because the call is coming from within and opening our eyes doesn't make it less legitimate.

Anyhow. A couple of weeks ago, I began sharing on my blog a series on 'Discovering the feminine side of God'. It's something I have been thinking and writing about for ages and lots of scribbling has been lying dormant and I thought it was a way of sharing what might otherwise just sit on the hard drive of my computer. It felt like a practical decision more than an emotional one, to be honest. These are themes that I have thought are important for ages. But it has lain dormant for a while now.

Also over the last three weeks, I have been on a 'retreat at home'. My spiritual life has felt a bit stale and connecting with God has been a bit tricky lately. I often find that getting some intentional time away being prayerful in some capacity or other (in years gone by, it was often things like Spring Harvest that provided a top up) can provide a bit of a reset that flows over into every day life. My spiritual director suggested that as there wasn't anything like that on the horizon just now, we could create a 'retreat at home' whereby I would intentionally focus on my prayer life and we would meet a couple of times a week.

The beginning of my retreat was marked by moments of deep intimacy in prayer but a much more evident awareness of the things getting in the way. Siobhan suggested a psalm on which to meditate. I realised that I had heard sermons preached on it that rendered it deeply triggering. Normally I'd have brushed that aside because it's one on the list of 'everyone's favourite psalms'. She suggested something else. That was triggering too. Just picking up a bible was triggering. And I didn't feel any compunction to pretend that it wasn't.

Siobhan knows that I have been thinking of God not only as masculine but also feminine for a while. So she often opens our time together with words of invitation to the Divine that make reference to the Divine as She. And as she did so, one morning, I had the jarring recognition that it felt out of step, strange, compared to the praying I had been doing. I realised in our conversation that the things that have been acting as triggers and blocks in my prayer in the last few weeks have all had a negatively masculine feel to them.

I have had a desire to connect with the feminine divine over the last few years, but there is so much that is masculine in Christian culture that it has been an uphill struggle, to say the least. I get glimpses. But it is not a path that is well trodden in my life. So it feels like hacking through virgin rain forest with a machete and forging a path, only to discover that the moment I lose concentration or look away, the path is gone again. Overgrown. My head knowledge has changed. The paths in my heart are all still predominantly patriarchal and blokey.

So having spent a few sessions where I was mainly bringing my awareness of the blockages getting in the way, Siobhan brought to mind the image of John the Baptist creating a 'way in the wilderness' for Jesus. The Isaiah passage about valleys being exalted and mountains made low to create a way for the lord.

"It feels like you are creating a path for intimacy" she said.

And that is what my advent-ure is all about. I have had enough of creating little paths in the undergrowth in my search for the feminine divine, only for them to get overgrown. I have enthusiasm and energy to want to level the hills and raise the valleys to make space for a motorway in my heart to welcome the divine feminine. Whatever She looks like. Actually, I don't think it needs to be as aggressive as a motorway. It will probably be much friendlier and simpler than that. I don't need my path to be a motorway. It can wend gently through the hills and the woodlands. But it does need to be mettled. I need to do the job well enough that the path won't be overgrown again. So that when I have wandered from it for a while and come back, it will still be there.

So the confluence of advent and retreat and my prayerful discoveries and the decision to made advent-ure our theme for Saturday and what felt like the coincidental returning to my writings all come together to bring me to the beginning of a new exploration just as advent begins. I am preparing the way. Or, more realistically, God is preparing the way within me and I'm joining in where I can. There is an invitation into new territory and I am excited about the journey and the road building as much as I am about meeting the One who is inviting me.

Full Heart by Christa Dichgans

Why is the Christa always suffering, broken, dying?

Where is the risen Christa?

Why have we not realised her?

Is she still on her way to us?

How can we help her arrive?

When she comes to us, will we know her?

Will her face be turned towards us

or looking away, beyond our stifled horizons?

Will her eyes be filled with compassion or fury?

Will we dare to meet her gaze?

How will she greet us?

Will she touch us, or shake us?

What will she say to us?

Will we recognise the sound of her voice speaking?

Or will she approach through torrential silences?

Where shall we go looking for her?

Who will show us her way?

Nicola Slee

(Seeking the Risen Christa)

The first instalments of my blog series can be found here and here

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