The Gift of A Silent Retreat

Silence is a rare thing in my life.  I think it's quiet in our house around 2 a.m., but I can't say for certain because, if all goes right, I am asleep...and if I'm not, chances are it's because it's not quiet.  As I type this, the 1 year old is banging his trains on a piano bench...the option he chose after I told him it was too loud when he banged them on the window.

A few months ago when the campus ministry with which I worked offered a silent retreat, I made sure my name was on the list.

About a week before the retreat, I considered backing out, simply because it takes a lot of work to get away for the weekend when you have littles.  I am so glad I didn't.

Our silence started on Friday night and continued through Sunday after lunch.  We spoke only twice during the weekend: in a small group session with a spiritual director (we were each give ten minutes to share), and then in a one-on-one session with a  spiritual director.  

Otherwise, we were silent.  

We woke into silence, we ate our meals in silence, we moved around each other in silence, we went to sleep in silence. We were given a few exercises to guide our time, but for the most part, the time was ours to do what we wanted.  The words, "if you need a nap, feel free to take one" were even spoken.  What?  Did someone actually just give me the freedom to nap guilt-free?  Yes, please.  

For an introvert with three small kids, the weekend was glorious.  I lingered at the table after the meals, enjoying one more cup of coffee while watching the clouds dance over the mountains.  I took a winter walk with my camera and snapped pictures of things that reminded me to pay attention to God's presence (a theme of my weekend).  I wrote in my journal.  I prayed.  I sat snuggled in a chair, knitting, watching the sunrise.  I pulled a book or two off the retreat centre's shelves and read by the fire.

I rested in God's presence.  

The silence was a gift, an invitation.

Silence offers an opportunity to slow down, to connect with those parts of ourselves that we are normally too busy to nurture.  Without the clamour of work and dishes, carpools and emails, we have more space to listen to our longings and our joys, our fears and our hopes.  Silence can ask of us the hard work of wrestling with our ghosts and it can pour Living Water into the parched and cracking places of our hearts.  

It allows us to encounter God in different ways.  It invites us to listen in new ways to what God might be saying.

But retreats aren't the only way to experience silence.  How might we carve space into the daily rhythms of our lives for silence?  How might we create space to listen to God?