Today I had the privelege of attending “Soul Sabbath: A silent retreat” sponsored by my school, Gordon-Conwell. After shoveling the truck out from yet another winter storm, my friend, John, and I drove up to the Emery House in West Newbury. Although John and some other friends had gone last semester and spoken very highly of the retreat, I claimed I had “too much to do.” Famous last words, huh?! The Emery House is part of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, a monastic order in the Anglican Communion. They live under traditional monastic vows in non-traditional settings while facing the challenges and opportunities of today.
So for a day, I had a small taste of such a life. About 14 of us met in the chapel where we were asked about our expectations for the day and recieved a crash course on “silence.” What’s that you ask? Well, for me, its that really uncomfortable feeling when you’re driving in the car and you have to put some music on. Or the awkard tension that lingers when a conversation has apparently died. Silence scares me. It probably scares you, too. That’s why we either try to annihilate it with our busy schedules or squelch it out with any background noise. But today I learned that silence is a gift. It’s a gift in which we can learn about God, others, and ourselves. And in the context of community, it became a gift that we gave each other.
Brother David told us today, “Without silence, our hearts would find the burdens, the secrets and the pain of those we seek to helop intolerable and overwhelming.” True that!! Just the other day I had an earnest conversation with a good friend about how incapacitating life can become as we consider the tremendous needs around the world and even in our own lives. What makes silence so relevant is that it drives us to reflection and meditation; it moves us from preoccupation with ourselves and our limitations and unto God and his immeasurable wisdom and resources. I realized today that while we need to truly pursue sound doctrine, we cannot do it apart from stopping and letting God reveal to us his perspective. In this way, prayer becomes more conversational, rather than me just ranting and raving to God. Today, I waited and listened for what God wanted to tell me. What did I hear? I believe that God taught me that one of the most tangible ways to express my faith is to actively and passionately pursue times of silence, reflection, and solitude in the midst of the mundane and the unexpected. Not only will this give me godly perspective of the world around me, but also the world inside of me. And believe, me, that’s a scarry world sometimes!