I am not sure why I am like this but I resist times of solitude with God. Don’t get me wrong, like all good Christian leaders I can preach a good sermon about the need to withdraw and spend time in solitude and prayer. It is one thing to speak it, quite another to live it. I say this to my shame, I was struggling with stress, overwork, worry, a too full calendar, but still, I resisted going on retreat. I could blame it on my schedule or on the various important responsibilities I carried but the truth is, I RESISTED THE VERY MEDICINE MY SOUL NEEDED!
Finally, in June of this year I went on a five day silent, directed retreat. The very first day of the retreat my spiritual director encouraged me to walk down to the beach with my Bible and read a couple of passages of scripture and get in touch with God. I walked along a wooded path and rounding a turn in the road I spotted a yearling deer munching on some leaves by the side of the trail. Its ears went up and its tail twitched but it seemed genuinely curious, eventually it went back to eating leaves and I tried gingerly inching forward to get a better glimpse. Again its head would come up and its ears would twitch and it would stare for a while before returning to its green salad supper. To my surprise the yearling began to walk toward me getting closer by the minute. It was a lovely experience of God’s creation, I was able to get to within twenty feet of the little one before it slowly sauntered off into the woods stopping now and then to turn and gaze at me.
I continued to the beach and read my Bible and prayed but I was so tired and so stressed from all of the busy things in my life that I really didn’t connect with God at the beach. I am not sure if it was that night or the next morning God started speaking to me about the little yearling that had been sent my way. God reminded me that if I really wanted to experience His presence I needed to do just what I did when I happened upon the presence of the delightful little deer. I needed to slow my whole world down and be incredibly patient and quiet to enjoy the gracious presence of one of God’s lovely creatures. More than anything I needed to forget about my worries, slow down my world; slow my breathing, rest and “be still” in order to enjoy the healing presence of God in my life. As you already know this is a very scriptural concept, the Psalmist said, “Be still and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10) I remember Brennan Manning quoting Woody Allen who said, “Ninety percent of life is showing up; just show up and shut up.” Incredibly, after I finally allowed my inner being to quiet down the scriptures came alive and God spoke to me very clearly. On retreat, God met me and spoke to me in ways that changed my perspective and gave me courage to move forward. It makes me wonder why I so stubbornly resist the call of God to “show up and shut up!”