For an overachieving, working mother with a “Type A” personality and a tendency toward anxiety, the concept of being still is rather foreign … and a little frightening. Like so many Christians, I can be silent and listen to God for oh, about 15 seconds, before the noise of my over-stimulated mind breaks in. So imagine putting me in a place for 36 hours where true silence and isolation are observed? Then consider that this bona fide city girl would have no electricity or indoor plumbing and you’ll get an idea of how daunting the whole concept was for me.
But that’s exactly where God led me. Finding myself at a career crossroads, I sought solace at Pacem in Terris, a Franciscan center of spirituality located in rural Minnesota. Nestled among 240 beautiful wooded acres are 16 simply furnished one-room cabins called “hermitages.” Within their walls believers can find peace and solitude – and most importantly – God.
Silent retreats are “in” and centers are popping up all over the world. Facilities vary from primitive one-room cabins to luxurious lodges, tents and tepees and are operated by a wide variety of religious traditions.
While some retreat centers offer seminars and instruction, a true silent retreat requires isolation. Logically, if you are going to have a heart-to-heart talk with someone you don’t do it with a room full of people. It’s just like that with God – we need to be alone with Him.
Many people experience an intense relaxation when they go on a silent retreat, and find they are able to sleep better than they have in years. That restorative slumber is also a way that God ministers to us, so don’t feel guilty for taking advantage of the solitude and catching some “z’s.”
In order to truly commune with God at the deepest level, true seclusion is ideal. That means you need to be left alone; no cell phone or computer, and if possible, avoid human contact completely for a few days. Having to eat, recreate or interact with others can be highly distracting. Because we are conditioned to multitask in this society, it can take hours after such interruptions before we can calm down and refocus on God once again.
Since there will be no fashion police in your hermitage, a comfortable pair of sweats, jammies, walking shoes and outdoor gear are really all you need. Take advantage of walking trails and other outdoor activities to energize your body and spirit.
The day after I returned home, I received my first book contract and became a bona fide writer. That’s the day my writing adventure began. Six years later, I have authored or coauthored eight books and have several more works in progress. Our God is amazing!
In my despair I went on a silent retreat to seek God. I felt His presence and heard His voice – as clearly as if He were sitting next to me. In the woods of my simple hermitage I knew Christ was real – I found Him in the stillness.
Until next time,
Amy Hammond Hagberg