As part of my “Spiritual Formation” course at Tyndale Seminary our class was required to participate in a “Spiritual Formation Retreat”. I have friends who took this course a couple of years ago and really enjoyed the retreat so I was looking forward to it. However, we not idea as to the outline of the two days so there was some mystery as I drove to the Retreat Centre. As I noted in another post my daughter’s only question about the retreat was, “Are you taking your computer?” She was glad I was not. Also both my kids got it in their heads that the retreat was one of total silence.
This is where my kids pictured I was.
This is where I actually was.
This is was my room for the 2 1/2 days of the retreat. It actually reminded me of the room I rented from an old Estonian woman when I went to Confederation College in Thunder Bay, Ontario in the mid-80’s. If you had more than 3 people in the room at one time the oxygen level would go down and masks would descend from the ceiling. The room was nice, clean and had its own bathroom. It was fine.
I send this picture to my wife and two kids and the following is the text conversation I had with my daughter.
“Change your name to lonely for the next 3 days.”
“You’re funny aren’t you. At least it is warm in my room.”
“It’s warm in my nice house with no strangers and food that I have seen before, someone feeds it to me and there are no crazy people.”
“You are so bad, all I have here is the sound of piano music playing in the background.”
“That’s the tune before they come and getcha.”
“The music would be more sinister if something bad was going to happen.”
“That’s what they want you to think.”
“Are they lulling me into a false sense of security?”
“Have you never watched CSI?” “They should execute everyone who talks. I think you would lose.”
“First of all I don’t talk that much. Second, it’s not a totally silent retreat.” “Do you want to come and visit me tomorrow?”
“Nope, I’d walk in and scream to the top of my lungs.”
“Why are you like that. You need to learn the discipline of being silent for awhile.”
“Nah, silence is overrated.”
“Try it you might like it.”
“No thank you sir.”
When I looked up at the wall this is what I saw. I said, “Hello, Jesus and hello white man who scares me a bit.” I took the scary man down because I didn’t know who he was and I didn’t want him watching me as I slept especially after the subliminal message my daughter planted in my head.
This is what my kids thought I did most of the day.
This is what we actually did most of the day.
The highlight for most of us was the Thursday afternoon of silence. We were given the afternoon to rest, read, pray, walk, etc., as long as it was in silence. You could even partner with someone but once again no talking. Many of us took advantage of the river that ran by the Retreat property.
The hardest part of the afternoon was the walk back up the stairs. It was like a combination of the Stair-Climber, Thigh Master and the Brazilian Butt Blaster all rolled into one. It hurt so much and showed me how much I am out of shape.
I grew up spending most of my time outside, riding bike, building forts and playing in the woods and I had forgotten how much I loved nature. I can’t say God revealed anything huge to me but it was awesome to spend time in His presence with no agenda. After the retreat I read these words in one of our assigned readings for the course.
Total silence is rare, and what we today call “quiet” usually only amounts to a little less noise. Dallas Willard
After my “forced silence” I realized how true this is. We do not realize the amount of noise around us all the time. The peace of the silence can become addictive and I hope this happens to me. In a world of noise, noise and more noise, we all need to step back to gain a different perspective.
Let me encourage you to turn off the radio in the car for a change, shut your office door or do whatever you have to, to reduce the noise as much as possible. It will seem strange at first but the long-term benefits are worth the uncomfortableness.
P.S. Here is an article of about the scary white man – Eugene de Mazenod