I’m spending 5 days in a guided silent retreat at Spring Hill College. SHC is the third oldest Jesuit college in the United States (founded in 1830). Who are the Jesuits? As my suite-mate told me last night (a former Marine and a Catholic deacon), they are the “Marines” of the Catholic Church. It takes 13 years to become a Jesuit. The Jesuits grew out of the work of Ignatius of Loyola whose spiritual exercises form the basis for our 5 day retreat.
Each day, every day, is wholly and completely silent. No talking–not even at meals. There is one exception. Once a day we meet for an hour privately with a spiritual director (Lipscomb U. trains spiritual directors within Churches of Christ). Mine is a woman who has trained for years to provide spiritual direction. Essentially, she helps me discern what God is doing/saying during the retreat. There are 6 of us engaged in silence this week.
Why am I doing this? Four reasons:
- I have a great need to reconnect to God after an extremely busy time in ministry. Highland’s relocation and first two years in a new building have been immensely fulfilling, but also very draining. Meetings, events, ministries and to-do’s have crowded God more and more out of my schedule and my consciousness. This retreat forces me to do little but be with God and listen to God.
- I want to position myself to better hear “what’s next”? I’m entering mid-life (OK, maybe I’m well into it) and want God’s leadership in terms of the next step of my life. I don’t pretend to know what that is. It may very well be to keep doing what I’ve been doing for several more decades. But this week puts me squarely at the feet of Jesus with no agenda but to listen.
- I want to deal with nagging sin in my life. It takes time to recognize and address sin, especially those sins that dwell deep in the heart and which disguise themselves so well. This week gives me the painful opportunity to slow down and allow the Spirit to reveal these sins to me so I may confess them and repent of them.
- I want to be more available as a “spiritual” leader. More and more I’m discerning that what the people around me most need from me is spiritual wisdom and guidance. It’s one thing to help people know the Bible. It’s another to help them know what God’s doing/saying in the midst of each facet of their lives. This week helps me take a step toward becoming equipped to help others listen for the Spirit’s voice.