I’m 2.5 days into my 5 day silent retreat. Here are some halftime observations:
- I’m sorry, but it’s just weird to sit at a table with others for a meal and not talk. After 8 meals, I’m still not used to it. We just stare out the window and chew. But, we are chewing together.
- Yes, I’ve broken silence. On the morning of Day 1 I wanted to take a mug of coffee from our shared kitchen back to my dorm room, so I tried to communicate this to our coordinator. She thought I was asking for sugar. Then she thought I was asking for cream. Then she said, “You know, it’s OK to talk in this situation.” On the evening of Day 2 an alarm was going off in the main chapel and no one was around. So I pulled out my phone and called our coordinator. And, after some prayer, I felt compelled to call my Dad and Step-Dad briefly to wish them Happy Father’s Day. But besides that, my lips have been sealed.
- No, the other 5 people on this retreat are not Jedi Knights, monks or walking around with glowing faces. They are ordinary people with ordinary lives but filled with an extraordinary love for God. Of course, it’s been hard to get to know them since we can’t talk to each other (see #1) but it’s pretty clear they’re all just like me – pretty average folks in love with an awesome God and just trying to do everything possible to know that God better. I’ve really come to respect my suite-mate. He’s an ex-Marine (still wears the buzz cut) with the build of a soldier (still eats like a horse) but the humility of a child. I’ve watched him during mass and he’s like a little boy around his loving Father.
- God’s been nudging me to look at what he’s done in my past as a way of discerning more about the future. On Night 1 I felt this question come to my mind: “What’s next for me (in my career, my life, etc.)?” On Day 2 my Spiritual Director, without any knowledge of that question, urged to me to engage in a practice of reviewing my life’s story. And on Night 2, I was reading Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor and found that the book is Peterson tracing God’s work in his past which led him to become a “pastor” (I was given this book several weeks ago but just hadn’t gotten to it yet). So, through 3 separate ways I’ve heard God urging me to review his past work with me so that his future work with me might be clearer. I’m looking at his work with me as a preacher, as a writer and as a teacher. Each of these three roles are important ones in my life currently and I’m interested to see how God led me into each one and where each one may lead in the future.
- God’s been screaming at me to get back to a regular practice of silence in my daily life. For several months I was regularly practicing 20 minutes of silence each day. But eventually that time was crowded out. I’m hearing God pleading with me to put that time back into my schedule. Richard Foster’s book Sanctuary of the Soul has been a delightful reminder of the importance of silence and how God uses silence.
- On Morning1 I sensed this statement from God, “Love me with all your heart.” On Afternoon 1 I spent time in Saint Joseph’s Chapel (pictured above) just contemplating a statue of Jesus. Jesus’ hand is pointed at his heart. I sensed God urging, “I love you with all my heart. I want you to love me that way as well.” I’m a head oriented person. I don’t engage my heart easily. And, during some difficult times a few years ago, I became even more head oriented. But I believe God is calling for some renewed passion, emotion and affection in my walk with him.
- Oddly, I’m hearing God tell me to pay more attention to nature. I am wired as a visual person. Nature has always helped me reconnect to God. But a line in Foster’s book stood out to me this week about the importance of creation’s witness to God. Then a text from Matt. 7 which I was meditating on spoke about trees (a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, etc.). Specifically, I’m thinking now about trees. Using a tree, Jesus teaches in Matt. 7 that growth happens from the inside to the outside. You want to change your outside? You have to address the inside. Then in Matt. 13 Jesus uses a tree to teach that growth happens from little to large. You want to experience large growth? You have to start small. I thought of these also last night as I walked the golf course nearby–noticing large oaks and little acorns, tall pine trees and tiny pine cones. These ideas are still running around in my mind today.
- And, as I knew would happen, I’m hearing God telling me to attend to certain sins. I won’t use this space to go into detail, but there are moments of sheer pain as the gravity of the sins in my heart come to light against the backdrop of Christ’s sacrifice for me. At times it is overwhelming. How truly I am saved by grace, and only by grace. This afternoon promises to be especially somber as my Spiritual Director has urged me to meditate (in a guided way) on my sins and on my future death.