I spent the weekend at Holy Spirit Reteat Center in Janesville, co-facilitating a vocation retreat weekend for law students. (This is a retreat we run each year at the beginning of each of the fall and spring semesters.) It was a really wonderful weekend in very many respects.
One of the things we do each retreat on Saturday evening is to spend some time reflecting on those things that are a burden to us as we try to respond to God’s call. The question each of us is asked to reflect on is: are there things you need to let go of…to give to God…to unburden yourself so that you can respond more fully to God’s call.
After we spend some time in reflection, we engage in a ritual letting go. We build a fire (which for some retreats has been more challenging than others; one time we had no kindling or paper and used cartons from soda cans to light the fire…not easy), and place a crucifix just to the side of the fire. After reflecting, we each write on a piece of paper the thing or things we most want to unburden ourselves of. Then we wrap the paper around a stone and individually, as the spirit moves, go up to the fire and give the burden over to God. While we are reflecting, we play some instrumental music. Then, while people are coming to the fire, we play two songs by Tom Booth: Come to the Cross and Be Forgiven.
I’ve now participated in this ritual four or five times and I always find it very powerful, although different things are significant each time. What struck me most last night was listening to Be Forgiven. I can’t remember most of the lyrics, because what sticks in my mind is the frequently repeated line that is the song’s title: Be Forgiven. Be Forgiven. I listen and hear God saying over and over again, Be Forgiven.
And as I listened, I realized that it is not that God repeats the line because he needs to keep forgiving. God is not repeating the line for God’s own benefit. Instead, God is trying to convey something that is sometimes difficult for us to get. What I realized I was hearing, as I listened to the line over and over again, was God saying, “You know, you really are forgiven. Believe it. Believe it. Believe you are forgiven.”
I was overwhelmed as I listened with the immensity of God’s love. With how much God desires us and desires that we rest securely in the love God continually offers.