I love going on silent retreats. I love making a special time to be alone with God.
And then I hate it. I feel like I’ve gone on a long road trip and I’ve forgotten something. I feel like I’m four hours away from my hairdryer or the book I meant to bring.
No matter where you go, there you are.
And that is the problem. When you go on a silent retreat, there you are. You can’t get away from yourself. You can’t talk to other people to distract you from you. You can’t listen to their problems so you don’t think about your own.
You are stuck.
And that is where the magic happens. You have to learn to live with yourself, and love yourself. You have to learn that this crazy mixed up bag of humanity that is you is loved, by God, completely and totally, head over heels, no doubt about it, loved.
You have to relax into it, this love. It is pretty overwhelming. To know that you, yes you, are beloved. To know that God wants to talk with you and listen to you, directly, no intermediaries, no message takers. There is nothing between you and God.
Everything is stripped away, and all that is left is all that is needed.
Going on retreat is like going to a deserted island, but everything is taken care of. There’s a bed, and food, and things to read, and arts and crafts to work on, and a nice place to stroll.
There’s a whole lot of nothing, and that is everything.
We spend our days just jam packed with noise. We have so much noise all the time we can’t hear ourselves think.
So we certainly can’t hear God.
Sure, you can go on retreat in your house. You don’t have to go anywhere. You can’t get away from God. God is stuck on you closer than a Band-Aid.
But sometimes you need to make a point of getting away. Sometimes you have to leave home to get it. Home has too many distractions. Home is too easy. Sure, you can turn off the television and the computer and you can set aside this time, from here to there, that you will do nothing but listen to God.
Sometimes that works.
For when it doesn’t, you have to go on retreat, with other people, where you all do it together. All together you get on that boat and you head out into the sea that is God, and there is no life raft, or oars, or sail. You are adrift on that sea, with no way of knowing where you’ll end up.
Sounds scary, right?
It is. And it is beautiful, and wonderful, and amazing. And God’s got you the whole time.