Life has been less than usual for me recently as I’ve sought an oasis of calm in what felt like an increasingly chaotic world. Being housebound due to M.E, I’ve had to look outside my surroundings to seek solace for a burnt-out brain and weary body relapsing and frazzled by too much on-line connectivity.
So I went on a retreat. No social media. No wi-fi. Nothing but stillness, calm, and lots of time to unwind. It wasn’t all plain sailing. When life renders us physically still by default with chronic illness, we may assume we know how to sit before God in quiet reverence. However, I discovered (yet again) how easy it is for a mind to be active and restless even as a body feels relatively inactive.
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him” ~ Psalm 62:5
Outward stillness wasn’t producing inner calm. One afternoon when I was away, I heard footsteps tripping lightly up the stairs outside my room and felt a sudden, sharp pang of envy that I couldn’t move as freely as they could.
Then I sensed God saying,“I need some to move swiftly hither and thither, and I need others to be still. You are one I choose to be still.”
Even if my stillness was a default setting due to physical frailty, I still felt a little bit better after hearing those words, though my own choice would be to be one of the swift and strong, actively capable people.
Retreat prayer challenges
Here I was in a Convent environment and I found myself barely able to pray. Every time I tried my mind was as weary as my flesh and words wouldn’t come. So I rested, took several deep breaths, waited on God, and these words eventually came to my spirit:
“Depth matters more than length. Many words can be shallow, self-pitying or for show. A deep prayer is one that arises from a heart recognising its desperate need of and dependence on Me, and recognises Me as the Only Source of help to meet that need:a cry from one heart to another, a wounded soul calling out to Father God”
In the light of this, a simple cry of, “Help me, Jesus” or, “Lord, have mercy” is a deep, earnest prayer. In fact, we don’t necessarily have to say anything at all. God hears the unspoken cries of our hearts.
“Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord” ~ Psalm 139:4
Learning to be still
God is teaching me is to be still before Him in posture and silent in speech. It has meant learning to intercede by visualising the person concerned and simply lifting them up to God in my thoughts. Then I hold them there and trust Him to meet their every need, which is restful for a mind that finds focus hard and words failing!
This was an exercise in being focused primarily on God’s Presence instead of what to say and how to express it. Being quiet before the Lord has the added bonus of giving us greater ability to hear His voice.
I eventually found it really helpful as I began to rest and relax in this way. Insights came. Peace and strength filled my inner being. By the end of my stay time alone with God became something I eagerly sought, craved even.The poem below tries to capture some of the essence of my Retreat experience.
“Be still and know that I am God” ~ Psalm 46:10
A retreat poem
externally the same
Since returning home, it has been quite tricky to maintain lessons learnt in the quiet and stillness of a Convent guesthouse. I’m very much a beginner on the contemplative journey and going on retreat was a new experience for me.
Lacking sufficient mental agility or acuity to join in with the usual Five Minute Friday, I am pleased to be linking here today with Missional Women Faith Filled Friday instead. You’re very welcome to join us.