Silence is the Retreat
My drive from Michigan to Ohio was absolutely beautiful. Michigan had experienced an ice-storm and every branch of the crystalized trees glittered for miles, superior to any display of Christmas lights I have ever seen, as the sunshine brought them to life. My simple little camera would not have captured the beauty that was before me; therefore, the photo album is etched in my memory.
To silence oneself for a few days is not as hard as imagined; I accomplished this during the last weekend in March in a most serene setting in Ohio at a silent directed retreat. About 25 others attended this quiet-time to contemplate and discern God in our lives. We were blessed with trained Spiritual Directors to guide us in this journey.
The first evening, we were able to speak with others while sharing a meal. I was one of three participants from Michigan, and I met some awesome Ohioans. We may have talked for 45 minutes or so, but much was shared within those precious minutes. After the meal, we met in a room together to share what was on our hearts this weekend. When it was my turn to speak, I explained that about a month ago, I had a very vivid dream of someone telling me to “minister to the church”. My personal task then was to spend time with God to see just what that meant.
We were assigned one of four Spiritual Directors and we broke into smaller groups to meet with them for further instruction about the weekend and to set up our personal meeting times. After this short meeting, we were excused to begin our journey into silence.
Back in my room, I had a hard time settling in. Earlier that morning, my mother was rushed to emergency and diagnosed with a treatable form of congestive heart failure. It was on my mother’s urging that I go ahead and make my journey to Ohio as I had planned for months. I silently kept in contact with my siblings by receiving updates about my mother’s condition via text messaging.
One awesome cook made all of our meals. Eating in silence was an experience I had never encountered. We acknowledged each other with smiles, but then focused on our food before us and the beauty of the landscape that surrounded us through all the windows in the dining area. We took turns cleaning up the kitchen after each meal. I signed up for clean up duty after breakfast on Saturday morning. I broke the silence in the dining area when I accidently dropped a drinking glass onto the ceramic tiled floor.
Spring was not in the air; however, God gave us sunshine every day. I bundled up and took a walk along the paths in the woods and I walked around the pond and next to a stream. I spotted beautiful birds that I never see in Michigan, I heard the jack-hammer pounding of the Woodpeckers high up in the trees, and two sets of geese were making their homes near the pond. It was so beautiful.
Sitting in silence and letting the Holy Spirit speak to my heart was quite an amazing experience. Spending time in prayer, God’s word, in His creation, and simply resting in Him, made me realize that He is not quiet at all.
During our closing session, we went around the room, as we had at the beginning, and shared what the Holy Spirit spoke to us in our silent journey. This is what I said:
On Thursday, I announced that I wanted to know what my dream meant to “minister to the church”. I found out that answer this weekend.
To minister means to care for others. The church are people everywhere.
The Holy Spirit allowed me to search deep inside of me to remind myself that I love to help people. I have sewing skills, listening skills, writing skills and support skills that I can creatively use to serve God’s people. Although I have ideas on how to utilize my passions and skills, it will be the Holy Spirit that will lead me. I will spend more time in prayer and in God’s word as they will strengthen me.
Philippians 4:13 is my take-away verse:
I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.
I did not want to leave the serenity of the weekend. My Spiritual Director explained that this is an experience. I can take this experience with me, lean on it, remember it and be thankful for it. I can create new experiences to spend quality, quiet-time with the Holy Spirit. When she said this to me, it didn’t make sense. Only after being immersed into the world once again, do I understand. It is important for all of us to sneak away, quiet ourselves and let the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts as it is true nourishment for the soul. Now I understand why Jesus took time alone to pray to his Father. He was being strengthened for His journey to the cross.
A special Thank You to Sister Virginia, my Spiritual Director. May God continue to use you for His good works.