There were eight of us on retreat.
Eight beautiful women seeking rest and restoration. Seeking presence and guidance and an un-opposed word from the Lord. Two fearless spiritual directors made the journey with us….women who quietly challenged us to unplug, unfetter, unmask. To disentangle and listen and be intentional with our time with the Lord.
We went around the circle, saying names that wouldn’t be spoken again in conversation for three days, but would be prayed in hearts every minute. We each told why we’d come and shared how we were feeling as we entered in.
As the circle rounded to me, as hearts were spoken and deep desires named, I cringed at my true feelings. I worried that speaking my heart would open others to the same bad feelings. I shrank back from sharing too much.
But our leaders, they were good.
They saw the unspoken fear and questioned…gently pressing in as if to say, “does it hurt here a little?”
“I’m scared to death. I’m afraid of what God will say and what he won’t say. As I drove up here, I felt all the entanglements of life start to fall away, and that’s good because I got here and I feel free, but I’m also afraid of letting go of all those things that root me.”
I felt a tangible sigh of relief from some of the other women.
There…I said it….No, I am not excited about meeting the Lord here- well, I am, but that’s not the overriding emotion. I’m terrified about meeting the Lord here. I don’t know why I came…why I chose this thing….why I PAID for this…this silence that I am no good at- this locking away of words that makes me so uncomfortable.
We entered silence about 4 pm after all the questions we could possibly think of had been asked. I was like a toddler at bedtime with the questions, “Mom, I’m thirsty.” “One more story, Mama.” “Mommmyyyy, I need to go potttttyyyy!” But Gail seemed like a talker too…much like me, someone who led with words…I thought, she does this all the time…I can do this too.
Gail asked us to turn off our cell phones, but there was no alarm clock and I hate to miss dinner. This seemed like a perfectly good excuse to keep it on. Gail conceded and told us to put them in airplane mode. Like a crack fiend jones-ing for her next hit, it took less than ten minutes to find myself on Facebook. The hysterical irony that I was about to post on a comment someone had posted offering to pray for me on my silent retreat was enough to jar me out of my tech-induced high.
Shame rushed in…I turned the phone off, through it across the room, and broken and in tears, started to pray for help. God said to trust that he had it under control…I said I did trust but kept my ear out for the dinner bell….it never rang….I was twenty minutes late for dinner, and very disturbed.
Our first meal together was excruciatingly awkward. First, I was not first…I was twenty minutes late. I was last and didn’t know what to do. Regardless, eight women sitting around tables trying to ignore one another while eating dinner is just awkward. Add to that slurping of soup and crunching of salad and silence gets REALLY noisy. Since I had nothing else to do but listen to others eat, I started chatting with God (I guess that’s the point or something J ) and apologizing for the whole FB/Cell Phone Rule Breach and promising I would do better and he hit me with his first grace.
He whispered, “Charlie’s watch is in the car.”
Huh? OH MY! A watch? Really?
Unbelievably, my husband’s watch- that he took off and put in the console AT CHRISTMAS (5 months ago) is still there….ticking away perfect time.
I practically skipped back to my room to put away my phone.
After dinner, I put my husband’s watch around my wrist, it was heavy and it’s weight against my arm reminded me that God really had prepared this for me. I made some green tea and found a sweet perch on the swings on the far side of the property. I drank tea and swayed back and forth and could feel my body begin to relax and suddenly realized I was smiling. It’s been a long time since a smile bubbled forth from my insides, but there it was.
And it was good.