There are two main biblical images that spring to my mind when I think of Contemplative Prayer. One is Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:39) and the other is John reclining against Jesus' breast at the last supper (John 14:25). Both of them are images of stillness and intimacy - the quiet shared moment between two people.
Well thursday I was leading a Contemplative Prayer retreat at the Cenacle Retreat Center. Our whole day was centered around the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and especially the image of the Father in the story. In the afternoon I was out in the garden praying the Labyrinth that they have there. I have had many experiences of God whilst praying Labyrinths, it is a great tool for me in prayer because God never seems to turn up the same way twice, consequently I don't get into a 'prayer rut'.
As I prayed my attention was drawn to the surroundings of the Labyrinth, I walked through sunlight and shade from the trees (giving my bald head sunburn - I forgot that outdoor prayer can be hazardous!). I noticed various insects flying over the curving paths and a lizard clambering up a nearby wall. I became aware of all this great activity of life that I didn't notice until I was still and made a concious choice to look for it.
I turned a corner and saw a pea hen in the bushes. It surprised me because she was half hidden in the by the shadows. I kept very still as she walked across the clearing. As she stepped more fully into view I saw the chick that was scurring along next too her keeping as close to her feet as she could. The mother always between the the chick and the sun. The mother moved quite quickly and so the chick had to do some fast footwork to keep up with her. (You can just see the chick in the picture).
My mind went to two bible passages almost instantly. The first was Psalm 36:7 How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. The second was one line in the story of the Prodigal Son where it says that the Father runs towards the Son.
Both of the images of contemplative prayer that I listed earlier feature Jesus being still and other people having to become still to hear him. Now I was confronted with the idea of a God who runs and a child that has to run to keep up with Him. God as not static, but in motion. I began to think about who God runs towards. In the parable the Father runs towards the wayward son to welcome him home. I have a God who runs towards the broken, the hurt, the marginalized - a Father who leaves the safety of the 'farm' and runs into the wilderness because that is where the object of His love is.
I need to sit more with this idea through the coming weeks. The concept that sometimes I need to move to stay close to God. It is so easy for me to become entrenched in the way I see God and the things I believe about God. I am afraid of changing and letting go. But God is 'running out into the world' and I don't want to be left behind.
It's a comfort to know that no matter how far into the wilderness I may wander - God will come running to find me.