Silent Retreat Reflection – Peace

A couple Saturdays ago, I sat down to breakfast and ate the best biscuit I’ve ever had, but I couldn’t tell anybody.

The Joy of Silence

My friend Michelle who encouraged me to attend ended up joining the Advisory Board of the retreat center. She took this photo on her retreat last year and is in charge of the retreat’s presence on social media.

I, along with everyone around me, had agreed to refrain from speaking since the evening prior and until lunchtime the next day.

About fifteen of us were participating together in a Silent Weekend Retreat at (the aptly-named) Our Lady Queen of Peace Retreat Center in Stanton, Tennessee.

So, on that Saturday morning, soft music played and we enjoyed our food with the morning sun rising over the spring landscape. I didn’t get to compare my experience with that of someone else, I couldn’t Instagram it, nor did I have any device at all to let everyone know what an enjoyable time I was having.

I just sat, shared a meal, and truly tasted the best biscuit I have ever eaten.

Over the past year, my friend Michelle, who keeps a great blog over at Pen and Hive, had been telling me about her experience at the first Silent Weekend Retreat that Our Lady Queen of Peace had held in the spring of last year.

I knew that if I had the opportunity to participate in the next one, I would have to take it.

With my phone in my glovebox and nothing with me but hotel-stay necessities, my Book of Common Prayer/Bible combo, and a few carefully selected books , I set out into the hours before me.

I could not have anticipated then how much the silent hours would have to say to me, and how so much something could have come out of seemingly nothing.

This will be the first in a series of posts about what I gathered from my time spent in silence, or at least, what I gathered from the silence that can now be put into words.

These five posts are each going to be focused on a certain theme, and you’ll soon discover a certain (mildly regrettable) pattern; when I was sharing about the retreat upon my return, I realized I kept using p-words. Of course, I thought that would be appropriate for a blog series.

So, my first theme from the retreat (and my first p-word) is peace.

The weather welcomed me to take a seat by the pond, partly shaded under the newly sprouted leaves overhead. This is where I spent most of the nearly two days.

The silence I became acquainted with by that pond seemed like it had a personality, as if it was a character I was spending the weekend with, considering the way it interacted with me differently through various stages.

Perhaps the earliest of these stages was relief. I was relieved to be away from schedules, distractions, the possibility of anything which might add complexity, complication, uncertainty–the raw materials out of which I am so prone to produce worry.

There was nothing that could come up that I would have to respond to, and there was nothing that could have demanded my attention.

There was no striving, there was no grasping. I had everything I needed.

Here, any conflict or unrest would be of my own making. And anything I lacked would reveal just how much I had.

It strikes me: we’ve never really known peace, and yet, we can identify it.

Perhaps it is this: that peace is what we’re made for, and it is that to which we’re ultimately destined.

Our hope is anchored there, and our anticipation makes us ache. Sometimes, we get glimpses.

They are never complete.

Tasting and seeing more than experiencing and having.

But, only in the present time.

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When, Where, and with What the Kingdom of God Matters

All the time, everywhere, in everything.

There we go — the answer to the question right at the beginning. “All the time,” “everywhere,” and “everything” … keeping it rather simple.

It was obvious anyway, what the answer was. No need to build up to it as if I was going to say anything different from what you expected. And there also is no need for us to go through the trouble of dividing up “all the time” into some times, “everywhere” into some places, and “everything” to some things.

Yet, this is what we do.

Yep, we can do some pretty impressive work on “all the time,” “everywhere,” and “everything,” especially when we use them to talk about what God has to do with us.

My home is the American South. For many of us here to be brutally honest about what we believe in regards to when, where, and with what God’s dominion has something to say, we would end up with something like, “Thank you, God, for letting me feel good about voting Republican, holding conservative values, and going to heaven when I die, but you’ve got nothing to say about the food on my plate and how it gets there, the time I spend (or don’t spend) advocating for the victimized, or the ways I’m exploiting and abusing the earth instead of taking care of it and ruling over it on your behalf, as you created me to do.”

When, where, what?

Sometimes, some places, some things.

But what about how, and who?

What about, when God says something, how does he say it? Or, when God wants to do something, how does he do it?

What if the how question has a who answer? What if the kingdom of God comes through all of human life–through human work and human rest? Or is it that God only matters for religion, so that we are accountable to God to be Christians but not accountable to God to be proper humans? To do and become what we were created for in the first place?

The kingdom of God means more all the time than it does at any one time, it comes everywhere instead of remaining in only some places, and it has something to say about everything–not just some things.