This time last week, I was on a two day/night silent prayer retreat. I jokingly shared with some friends that it would be very difficult for me to be silent for almost 48 hours.
My life is a noisy life and one of being constantly on the go. (If you think about it, I suspect you will realize your life is noisy too, and you’re always on the go.) So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to this weekend. I also had some questions that I had prayed about and expected God’s answer during this weekend.
The purpose of the silence was to enable the participants to focus on God, to block out the world and its distractions and to hear Him speak. We were allowed to speak upon arrival and during the reception and dinner. Our first meeting was after dinner on Friday evening and at the dismissal of that meeting, our silence began. It was not hard to be silent – because no one would talk back! (Although I did see much sign language, pointing and note passing!)
The weekend was full of surprises! I had several people tell me prior to the retreat that they were praying for God to provide what I needed at the retreat. I assumed that was a confirmation that God would answer those questions I had. Don’t ever assume anything with God. By doing so, you put him in a box or He will do something totally opposite of what you prayed for or expected.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m an insomniac and consider myself blessed when I get 4 hours of sleep at night. My first surprise was I slept 19.5 hours out of the time I was there. Did God provide what I needed, as others had prayed? Absolutely!
I realized that there is a huge difference between silence and solitude. And there is a difference between complete and total silence and just being quiet. There were approximately 100 people at this retreat. 100 people that allow doors to slam, chairs to scrape on the dining room floor, forks and knives to clash against plates and on and on. So a silent retreat might be better named a quiet retreat. Because it isn’t silent.
And unless you are in your room (and don’t have a roommate) there is no solitude. There is a wonderful library at this facility with large, stuffed chairs and matching ottomans and what I would call a semi-chaise lounge – not quite long enough to stretch completely out – but definitely large enough to be very comfortable. Even if you were fortunate enough to snag one of those chairs, you were still surrounded by people. All of the chairs were taken, the couches were full and because there were two doors to this room, it was used as a pass-through by everyone. There were nature trails everywhere – through the woods, down to the Chattahoochee River, over to a waterfall and another to a gazebo. The weather was quite cold, but the trails were full of people
I learned a couple of things about myself while I was there: 1) I can’t do a silent retreat when there are 100 people around. There’s too much noise. 2) I can’t do a silent retreat when there are 100 people around. There are too many people and too many distractions. But that’s okay, because it was obvious this retreat worked for many people.
So my next silent retreat will be with one, maybe two close friends. And it will be for one day. Somewhere peaceful, quiet, outside in God’s beautiful creation.
Oh, yeah. Those questions I wanted answered? Still waiting. And doing what I know to do until the answers come. Or maybe I’m already doing the answers.