I know… the fact that I once was silent is going to take you a minute, if you know me in real life. So, I’ll give you a minute. Okay, good. Not only was I silent… but it was by my choice and it was for 3 days. I know it gets wilder by the minute around here.
Right out of college I was a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, a post-graduate volunteer program where participants make a year long commitment. This year is spent focusing on and living out the 4 values of the program: spirituality, community, simple living, and social justice. Throughout this year we were afforded some wonderful opportunities, despite our monthly stipend of $85.00.
And one of the perks was a Silent Retreat in the most gorgeous Jesuit retreat center in Los Atlos, CA. Let me assure you I could never have afforded this in real life… nonetheless it was historically a part of the Jesuit Volunteer (JV) experience. Without digressing too much, the Jesuits are an order of Catholic Priests (Pope Francis is a Jesuit, so that’s a fun fact!). They were founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola who was an officer in the Spanish army in the early 1500’s. He was injured in the line of battle and found a new love for Jesus in his time convalescing. St. Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and a long standing tradition of the Jesuits is to participate in the prayer experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. This is generally a 30 day retreat where one has time to pray through the life of Jesus in a very unique way.
Long story short… we didn’t have 30 days but we got 3.3 days of silence. I was FREAKING TERRIFIED. You think this would be hard for me now as a 32 year old woman with 2 young kids? Heck no! I would love someone to whisk me away to a silent retreat (anyone!?!), but my 21 year old self thought the only way to experience the world was through words. I felt so unsure of myself. I was so insecure that the idea of sitting in my own silence, to put it bluntly, scared the shit out of me.
Those 3 days were some of the most prayerful, meaningful days of my life. I mean it. I felt so close to God in a new way. Not right away, and believe me there were plenty of times when I had some choice words to share, but in the end it was AMAZING.
What I learned was that when my faith seems rocky, when God seems super distant, it’s me that’s doing the distancing. I’ve been thinking a ton about this lately on this adventure of beginning Small Steps. I’ve been thinking about it as I navigate motherhood. I’ve been thinking about it as I try to be a better wife and create and sustain a loving marriage with two young children around. God seems really far away. A LOT of the time. This realization makes me sad, but I do feel like the first step is realizing that.
So I’ve started making a list of the things that make God seem far away, mostly in my head but I’m thinking I’m going to start writing it down. Once I write it down or speak it aloud I’m hopeful that the new awareness will shorten the distance. The number one thing right now that I think is keeping me most distanced from God is that I don’t make the time, the space, the silence. I’ve found that as much as I want God to be a yell from the roof tops type of guy, sometimes God just wants to sit with you and have an intimate conversation quietly. And to get there we need to be still.
When’s the last time you felt silent and able to hear? Do you wish you had this? Do you think that a more regular prayer practice would bring joy and peace to your life? Perhaps a joy and peace for which you are longing.
On Wednesday I’m going to offer an awesome new program, filled with all of this, and the best part is you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home. For me the idea of going back to Los Altos is dreamy, I’ve actually been looking into it 🙂 But it seems unrealistic for me right now. Sometimes sadly so does true conversation and prayer with God. It seems like something for other people, holier people, people with more time and less commitment. It’s not. God loves me and wants to be as present in my life as facebook or my text messages. It’s really my job to figure out how to be present for that!