Folks who know me well and not-so-well might be surprised to read that silence brings me joy. Well, that’s one of the reasons this series is called “unexpected,” my friends – you never know what you’re gonna get!
Anyway, silence did NOT always bring me joy.
A trip in the way-back machine will show my younger self surrounded by a LOT of noise – the bigger the car stereo system, the louder the rock concert, the rowdier the party – I sought out the noise, and the noise was more than happy to be found. I believed these things were bringing me joy.
I’ve often joked that God knew it would take having the incomparable noise of life with five young children and a husband to get me to want to spend time, alone, in a chapel filled with nothing but Jesus in the Tabernacle and my thoughts. Don’t get me wrong – I still crank up TobyMac in the minivan and get down to Lecrae in the living room. But it’s different now. I’m not as apt to seek noise for its own sake anymore. I’m not trying to drown God out … usually. I want to actually be able to hear Him.
And yet, I do still struggle with silence. I sometimes struggle with it mightily. Because I am out of practice actually entering in to the silence. And that is because I lack discipline.
I suffer from what Buddhists would call “monkey mind.” My thoughts swing from branch to branch like busy little monkeys, and more often than not, I have seemingly several dozen monkeys swinging around simultaneously with no end in sight. Admittedly, my mind can be a very scary place. I have not figured out exactly how to calm the monkeys yet, but I have a sneaking suspicion it doesn’t involve bananas. Rather, I must regularly invest the proper amount of time to be still and know that He is God.
So, late last month, I found myself on a silent retreat. Again. You read correctly – silent – as in, no talking whatsoever. It had been four years – way too long – since my last silent retreat, and it took me all the way until the final Mass on the final day to begin to feel like, perhaps, my soul was beginning to start to become acclimated to the rhythm of silence and prayer.
My time at silent retreat this year solidified three things:
- I need more silence in my life, not less.
- Daily silent prayer/meditation and weekly Adoration must be non-negotiably present on my schedule.
- No retreat or program or new good endeavor can take the place of spending time with Jesus, and only I can do the necessary work to spend time with Him. I can’t outsource that.
Today I had a chance to reflect a bit on my very first retreat into silence over at CatholicMom.com – how my spiritual director tricked me into going and how it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It is still bearing fruit today, lo, these six years (!!) later.
My advice? If you’ve considered going on silent retreat but aren’t sure, DO IT. If you’ve been before and have another opportunity to go, DO IT. If you haven’t considered it because it scares you, consider it and DO IT. Be not afraid of the silence, my friend. You will find God in the silence, if only you seek Him.
Until tomorrow, God bless y’all!
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” -Luke 5:16
“After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” Matthew 14:23
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” -Luke 6:12