I’m back from my silent retreat! Not really sure how to sum it up briefly, though I will give it a try.
On Tuesday morning I left Knoxville with eleven other pastors from the area. We traveled to the mountains in North Carolina – the Maggie Valley area – to a catholic retreat center. It was a beautiful drive; the mountains were covered in snow.
I enjoyed getting to know the guys in the truck on the way up. I had never met any of the three guys I rode with.
From the beginning, I had a refreshing realization…I’m not the only guy who struggles with things. Sure, that should seem obvious. But here are these older pastors who I view as wise, seasoned veterans and they are sharing pieces of their hearts that I completely identify with.
We took a vow of silence around 1:30 on Tuesday afternoon and set off to our own spaces at the retreat center. I napped…journaled…sat…kneeled…prayed…walked around…in silence. We were not allowed to bring any books or music. Just a Bible and a journal. And then our Bibles were taken up for the first seven hours we were there!
The coolest thing was eating dinner together as a community of men…in silence. The atmosphere was great – candles, dusk settling outside the big window in the dining room, the smell of cheesy chicken casserole and warm bread…and silence. We prayed silently, then ate silently. We were not allowed to help serve or clean up…often the desire to be “useful” is a way of running from stillness. So I took my time eating…savoring every bite. Then we sat there and rested. Finally we were dismissed, but I lingered and enjoyed the quiet with a bite-size Hershey’s Special Dark and decaf coffee.
One of my big take-aways from the retreat is learning to be more present in the moment. Particularly the moments I have at home with my family. God showed me that I am often distracted from these moments in large part because of my blackberry device. It’s like I’m always checking it. A couple of times during the first day of the retreat I caught myself thinking my phone was vibrating, but there was a problem…my phone was off and locked up in the truck!
Another big take-away was this: God wants me to practice “being”. I’ve been very busy “doing” lately – even trying to “do” my relationship with God. But this week I had no choice but to just be still and quiet and “be”. He spoke to me, and He fed me from His Word.
So now I have returned to the noise of life, but I’m more aware of the moments now. When I used to fill those moments with something “productive”, I’m trying to welcome the stillness or the quiet. And one more thing which is so big I won’t even try to explain here…I’m OK with where God has me right now. I don’t need to fake anything or pretend or pose or posture. And that’s big.