I attended a half-day silence and solitude retreat today. I had never done anything like it before, and I recruited my chattiest girlfriend to come along with me, secretly hoping we’d get kicked out early.
I was intrigued by the idea of spending that much time in silence, but as the day approached I found myself growing anxious, inventing excuses not to go, or at least to leave early; after all, I am a busy girl.
What I learned in those few hours of quiet could literally fill my blog posts for the remainder of the year; I am certain it will inspire my writing for some time. But let me offer you a few snapshots as encouragement of the importance of creating space to:
Be still and know that I am God.
Lesson #1: Be
I decided the best way to share my experience is to write what I heard in my time with the Lord conversationally, not because I heard him auditorily, but because this is the closest I can come to characterizing how I hear Him speak to my heart.
The opening verse for the day was this:
My heart heard you say, “Come and be with me.”
My heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
See how quickly and easily you respond to my invitation to come, yet skip right over the be? It is easy as humans to do, but in your activity you are more likely to fall into the trap of control, independence and ultimately separation from Me.
Before the universe existed I/We were, in perfect relational unity. I experience complete fulfillment in simply being. My name exemplifies the complexity and beauty of this truth:
I am who I am.
The good news is that Jesus opened the door for you to experience this too. He prayed this for you before his passion cleared the Way:
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you.”
I was sitting outdoors in the lightly wooded backyard of the host’s home, near a shack that caught my eye because it reminded me of the movie, “The Shack,” and I hoped for a similarly tangible experience with God. As I settled into the quiet my awareness of my surroundings heightened, and I took note of how all of nature proclaims God’s presence… and how often I am oblivious to it.
There is no need for you to move or act or do anything to be with Me. All I ask is that you open your hands and your heart to receive the good gifts I have for you; the gifts I desire to give you; gifts that, like breadcrumbs, draw you to The Giver.
When you are on the move you pass by many of My gifts in the same way you stop hearing the birds after the quiet hours of the morning. Taking time with Me will help you remember how to abide in Me not just today but every day.
I became increasingly aware of how God uses anything–and everything–to reveal Himself and His heart for us. What I thought was going to be difficult was the opposite; I discovered God speaking easily and readily, like my girlfriend; I just hadn’t been listening well.
Suddenly my attention was drawn to the sun and the breeze. I had forgotten my sweater and I was shivering, resisting the urge to move indoors on this beautiful morning by turning my attention to the sun’s warmth on my back rather than the lingering chill wisping across my skin.
Do you notice, God whispered, how the breeze does not change the warmth of the sun, it simply makes it harder to feel its warmth? It obscures it only temporarily because the sun is true and constant. The more you focus on its warmth the less cold you will feel when the breeze blows.
The same is true of us. The more you focus your attention on Me, the less likely you are to be shaken when world blows cold, attempting to obscure my constant and reliable presence.
Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
you’re already there waiting!