– Dana Smith, Women’s Equipping Coordinator
To be honest, what I felt was actual fear—fear that I did not have what it takes to be silent and that I would be exposed as a shallow non-contemplative. Having never been on a silent retreat, I will admit apprehension. After all, I rarely go three hours without looking at my iPhone, much less 3 days. Well, the actual retreat was less than 48 hours, but it was a 3-day block on my calendar that stared at me for weeks like a bully waiting for recess.
It seemed to take hours to allow the other noise and my own voice in my head to mute, leak out, or dissolve away so that what I heard and felt was Him. No, I did not hear from Him audibly, but it was as real as that. I heard from Him in my head and heart in a communicating way that did not need sound to impact me deeply.
I felt the presence of the Lord and experienced the peace and calm of his shepherd-like care for the true and real me.
I long to be seen and known as heroic. I wish it wasn’t true, but this longing is most acute with those I am closest to – my wife and kids. Whenever I sense they are seeing me as less than a hero, it usually triggers a defensiveness that is accompanied by sarcasm or disappointment in some other unhealthy form. It was while alone with the Father that I understood the roots of this identity addiction and felt freed from the need to get my fix from others. It was as if I was in a conversation with the One Who is in control and a gift-giver to my soul. I felt the presence of the Lord and experienced the peace and calm of his shepherd-like care for the true and real me. I was changed and I savor it still.
Waffles, jelly, no syrup
My wife Cathy was with me at this event. We were sharing a room for the retreat but were still vowed to silence at meals and in our room. The dorm sized beds helped ease the awkwardness of the silence I suppose, but I realized how comforting her familiarity was to me. I knew her routines and they were somehow more beautiful in silence. I certainly knew without asking that the first morning was a good time for her to sleep in. It was a joy for me to pick the things that I knew she would get for herself from the crowded breakfast buffet table – waffles, strawberries, and jelly, not syrup. Yes, I felt somewhere between Santa Claus and James Bond to be able to leave these treats on her bedside table without her waking.
Leaf-shaped love letters
Cathy was also hearing from the Father in deep but different ways in her silence. She felt pursued by the Father like she had not experienced before and enjoyed the gifts from Him in the form of perfectly shaped and colored leaves personally delivered to her as she walked among the gardens alone. I noticed a stack of these fragile symbols grow daily near the spot where I left her waffles and jelly.
As we drove home from our bucket-filling experience, there was a peace and connection that we enjoyed like few times in our history together. We laughed and cried and felt the familiar warmth of being in His presence for such an extended time. On the way home we decided to stop at a favorite outlet for some Holiday purchases. As she was in the back trying on party outfits, I sat in the comfortable cushions of the Man Couch that was appropriately placed near the checkout counter. I knew few of the men who had sat there before me could feel more delighted and connected to their partner than I did in that moment. As I feasted on this l thought, something caught my eye. A leaf. A perfect gold oak leaf on a long gold chain. I had seen this exact shape in the Stack! Then I heard Him. “I want Cathy to have that leaf, and I want you to give it to her.” Yes, Lord, yes I will enjoy that.
Echoes of the Father’s voice
Later at dinner, I was able to share more how I felt seen and known as heroic from the Father in ways that made it unnecessary to hear it from others. Cathy excitedly spoke more about how the Kind Father had pursued her during the silence and had even gifted her with perfect leaves that seemed personally delivered to her as she quietly stepped around the grounds. “He had one more leaf that He wants you to have and asked me to deliver,” I said, and reached into my pocket to reveal my hidden gold treasure. This gift from the Father delivered by my hands made an impression on the heart of my bride of 26 years that I will not forget.
Then words that I had longed to hear echoed from the Father were delivered through the lips of His perfect gift for me. “When you give me things like this, I feel pursued, which is my deepest longing. And when you do it, I see you as heroic.”
What a gift marriage is. It is the union of two of God’s precious children who become the very channels for His perfect love – His chosen delivery of deeply personal and heart-firing love. As one gives it, they are filled with it at the same time.
A remarkable truth I now see is that nothing about this silent event changed anything about the nature of God. He is this good all the time. He is this kind. He delights in giving good gifts to his children. What changed was my seeing and experiencing Him, which only came after a disciplined refusal to let other messages fill my space.
One Step Further:
- If you were to take time to slow down and listen to the Father’s heart, what might He long to communicate to you?
- How has God shown you His love for YOU this week?
- How would you like to respond to His pursuit of you?