It was a frigid January morning. The sun shone with expectation. Even with snow covered streets, I was determined to make my way out to the hillside retreat center.
For weeks I had anticipated the one-day workshop sitting under the teaching of my favorite author. While my husband and others I knew couldn’t quite understand my enthusiasm, I forged ahead with plans to attend the retreat solo. Yep, I was going to a Christian retreat alone—not knowing a soul.
And, it was with just a bit of trepidation that I awoke that frosty January morning to ready myself for a day with Brennan Manning and a room full of strangers. I gathered my Bible, my notebooks, pen and all my Manning books into the car. Flashlight – check; kitty litter – check; extra blankets – check, check. Well, I wasn’t quite that paranoid, but I was traveling about 30 miles from home to the retreat center and I wasn’t quite sure where I was going. Better be prepared.
Finding my way to the conference wasn’t a problem. The lost feeling came when I finally arrived. I registered, mumbling a series of thank yous to the ladies on duty, then slid into the large meeting room. My stomach flip-flopped its displeasure at the awkward situation.
I searched the room for a secluded, obscure seat in the back of the room. I then found the complimentary breakfast table and knew that would keep me occupied before the conference actually got underway. Grabbing an orange juice and a Danish, I settled into a chair ready for the day’s events to begin.
“Are these seats taken?” A group of women leaned forward in unison to peer down my empty row.
“No. Help yourselves.”
Four women filed past me and quickly fell into a familiarity with each other. Like a chameleon, I melted into the background.
Just as the first speaker approached the podium, another voice interrupted my thoughts. “Is that seat taken?”
I looked up to see another woman, about my age, smiling down at me.
“Laura. Glad to meet you.” I smiled back. Carla’s twinkling eyes relaxed me and gave me courage.
The morning passed quickly and just before the lunch break we all found ourselves discovering that lunch would be held in total silence. What? Great. I just barely met Carla and now I would have no chance to get to know her better. The group filed into the large dining hall, stunned and silent. After a quick prayer and several moments of uncomfortable coughs and nervous glances, our meal was served.
At the end of the hour, I looked around, surprised by the tranquility and peace I witnessed on the faces of those around me. Eyes shone. Some were bowed in prayer. Others were reading their Bibles. A few still appeared uncomfortable, shifting in their folding chairs.
Who would have known that I would meet encouragement that winter day through silence. More important than one man’s words or another’s testimony, I discovered a new revelation. In seeking silence, I could meet silence. In seeking encouragement, I could meet encouragement.
Silence is now my most precious friend. For God is found in stillness. Encouragement among believers comes in the most unexpected places.
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