I just went on my first silent retreat. Two days without a word. I know, I know . . . unimaginable for ‘yours truly.’ As the retreat kicked off, we were asked to jot down our prayers for ourselves e.g. “What do we want from God this weekend?” We verbalized our prayers . . . they all sounded alike . . . “Get closer to God.” “Get back on track.” “Seek healing from a huge loss.” Then someone turned it around . . . “What if this is God’s retreat? Perhaps He’s the one who invited you here. Suppose He has you at this place to tell you something He wants you to hear?” Wow. Different ballgame. No way I want to miss that, but how do I make sure I hear His voice and not miss what He has to say to me? It requires silence.
My friend Rusty talks about the voices that call us. The voices come from all over . . . heaven, hell, our brains and the important people in our lives are just a few of them. As I approached this extended period of silence, wishing only to hear God’s voice, I quickly realized how many ‘non-God’ voices are calling me. They’re like dogs barking in my head, interrupting, irritating, demanding and persistent. How can I focus on hearing God’s voice with all this barking? Just for fun, I named the dogs. I named the loudest one “Health.” This voice is constantly reminding me of my tenuous health status, the next meds to take, the need to exercise, my next doctor’s appointment, the risk of infection, rejection . . . on and on he barks. Another dog, which I named “Calendar” keeps barking out the things I need to do next week, the week after. His twin brother, “Expectations” barks out that I was away for my wife’s birthday and the names of the people I haven’t emailed or called back. There’s a big, loud dog named “Money” whose barking reminds me taxes are almost due, I haven’t balanced my checkbook in forever, and some big bills are coming due. There’s another dog (a really sweet one) named “Radical Mentoring” that barks about an upcoming retreat, a golf fundraiser, my current group and all their needs. On and on, the dogs bark, keeping me from focusing . . . from hearing my Father.
Entering into the room of silence is like going inside the house and shutting the doors and windows. In a little while, you won’t hear the dogs, even though they’re still out there. It does take time . . . focused time. It’s hard (if not impossible) to silence the dogs in a 15 minute ‘quiet time.’
When’s the last time you were totally quiet? When did you last move into the room of silence, totally intent on having an intimate moment with your Heavenly Father?
“We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.” -Mother Teresa
In Scripture, ‘waters’ is often synonymous with chaos. In Psalm 23, David says of God . . .
“He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.”
Follow Him there. Let Him refresh your soul. You’ll be glad you did.
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