“Good morning girls.”
“Good morning Sister” we replied.
“The next three days will be spent as a retreat. We would not travel away from here to be in a quiet environment because we are already in a quiet environment. Therefore, within the next three days, there would be no talking, no singing except during mass, no chatting and generally no noise.” The reverend sister’s deep, rich and strong voice filled the whole chapel. “It is to be a time of deep reflection, remorse and re-dedication to God’s service. We would pray intermittently as a group but as you carry about your daily activities, you must all be prayerful. Any questions?” With the way the atmosphere was, questions could wait. Sister was satisfied with our silence. “I see that you understand me. As soon as you hear your rising bell tomorrow morning, wake up to our retreat, is that clear?”
“Yes Sister” we chorused.
Was it clear? Not exactly for some of us but we obeyed nonetheless. It was better than getting into Sister’s bad books. I have never up until now come across a set of noiseless people as we were during those three days. It took a lot for young girls between ages 12 and 17 to keep quiet for three days and talk only when praying, but we did it. We considered it better to obey Sister than get into good trouble.Sister came up with a theme for the retreat. It was tagged “consider your ways” taken from the book of Haggai. We considered all our ways and re-dedicated ourselves to God. I can’t put in place how I felt during those three days since years have passed between then and now; but I have a deep memory of why we did it, and what we hoped to achieve in the boarding house by embarking on the retreat.
Today, I see my first retreat taught me so much. On the whole, there was peace and quiet on the outside but for some of us; the inside was way too noisy. God can’t do much when there’s noise on the inside. When your mind is clogged with too much, you can’t hear God even when He speaks. So, the quiet environment is good as long as it creates inner quietness. If it doesn’t, then you might as well be in the din of a market place without saying anything and call it a retreat.
Recently, I felt like a retreat. I wanted to leave home, everyone, everything and just be alone, somewhere really quiet. It seemed everything that could go wrong in my life was wrong. You know that feeling when you think your life’s a total mess? That’s exactly how I felt. However, I couldn’t go anywhere, I had too many commitments; leaving would have been really selfish so I just stayed put and locked myself in my room. I laid on my bed and just kept quiet. I didn’t say anything but I knew He was there. I was excruciatingly tired on the inside; it seemed my inner man was drained of strength. The tears wanted to pour out but I quickly stopped them.“No! I would not cry. I am not weak!” I confessed.
“Can I sing you a song?” His voice was tender.I nodded my consent like a little one being comforted. The song began;
“I love you,
More than anything, I love you,
More than anything, I love you,
That’s why I gave my life for you”
As He sang, His presence enwrapped me and I let the tears flow, they were not tears of weakness.They were tears of joy, content and the satisfaction of knowing that there was One greater than me to help me carry on when things got tough. It was all I needed; the reassurance that He was still my God and I was still His child. It was a beautiful retreat.When I stepped out of my room, I was a re-energized, revitalized person who had rolled up the sleeves and was ready to get back to work. Isn’t that one of the reasons for a retreat?
Now,I can go on a 2 hour retreat in my room or a 30 minute retreat in the living room when no one’s home. I can even go on 2 day retreat, when everyone’s gone someplace for the weekend and I’m home alone. I’ve found out He can touch me when I go someplace quiet but He can also touch me much the same way when I can’t.
You don’t have to go to the highest mountain or the lowest valley to hear His voice or feel His touch, or get refreshed. He is like the air we breathe;everywhere.As long as your heart is stayed on Him, He’ll do all that you want Him to and He can do it anywhere.
I like how David puts it in Psalm 139:18(NIV); … “when I awake, I am still with you.”
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