Six observations from my silent retreat

slow down

I spent Thursday morning through Friday morning at The Hermitage, a retreat center just north of Three Rivers, MI. My days are filled with constant inputs and I wanted step back and spend time devoted to silence and prayer. My head is filled with content, but I need the help of the Lord – and time – to process that content in a meaningful way. I had no major insights, but the time was refreshing, relaxing, and instructive. Here are six observations from my retreat:

  1. The rule of the community is silence. I found it refreshing and relaxing. It provided a distraction free environment for me to quietly reflect and pray. However, meal times were hard. I have a hard time imagining a meal without conversation. I wanted to learn the stories of those who sat around the table with me, and I wanted to share mine. I love to leave space for silence, but a meal is made for conversation. I did love the way the director opened the meals: “Food is God’s love made edible.”
  2. I might have been the recipient of a minor miracle. I took a few hikes along the grounds. Foolishly, I really didn’t think about ticks. As I was walking through a field I had the sudden thought to check for ticks. I immediately looked down and there was a tick crawling up my bare leg. It had not bit down so I quickly brushed it off, none the worse. It’s possible I felt something or that something else triggered in my mind, but there had been lots of other bugs around me, so that seems unlikely. I’m inclined to interpret this event as God’s protection.
  3. I was deeply affected by Ephesians 2:10, particularly the idea that God has prepared good works in advance for us to do. It filled me with the anticipation that God has already gone ahead of me and prepared good works for me. This means that I can look for those opportunities and then act in obedience to God.
  4. Choice is not always freeing. As I reflected on possible futures, I discovered that I would gladly accept them if I were, by circumstances, thrust into them. But when I “get” to choose between possibilities, I feel paralyzed, or I feel like I’m being presumptuous. I’m not quite sure what to do with this realization yet.
  5. I spent time imagining “envisioning” a desired future – What would our church look like if it were thriving (more than it already is)? What would Sunday morning look like? What would a board meeting look like? What would it look like for members throughout the week? I tried hard not to just think in abstract, but to picture it with my mind’s eye. I found this to be a fruitful practice.
  6. Regardless of where the future leads, I need to continue to work on my inner life. That means a more robust prayer life marked by praise and confession. By God’s grace I have seen a resurgence in this area over the past month or so. And, while I’m now even more aware of the ways in which I am broken, inadequate, and guilty, I can also see steady improvement and growth.

Thank you all for prayed for me on this short retreat, especially to my wife Marj. I’m glad to be home.

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