by Elizabeth McBride
When my kids were babies we lived in Washington, D.C. My husband took our car to work each day, so the kids and I did a lot of walking in our neighborhood. On our walks I would frequently pass by a church in our neighborhood with a sign out front that said: “God is still speaking. Are you listening?”
The sign always prompted me to pause and listen for God. For about two seconds…until my daughter dropped her favorite stuffed animal on the sidewalk or my son’s demands for a sippy cup pierced my moment of silence.
Fast-forward to present day. Those babies in the stroller are in middle school now. God is still speaking. Am I listening?
When the opportunity to go on one of Covenant’s silent retreats presented itself, I resisted at first. I can’t possibly give up an entire school day for something so unproductive. I am a list maker, a bullet journaler. A productivity enthusiast. I like to stack tasks one on top of each other and see how many things I can possibly do simultaneously. Giving up a day to sit and be quiet and not accomplish something sounded like it would only serve to put me further behind on my list of to-dos. Nope, can’t possibly do that.
But then I felt nudged by a few different friends who encouraged me to give the silent retreat a try. I decided maybe those nudges were significant. Maybe God was speaking. Maybe I needed to listen.
I am so glad I did.
The silent retreat was such a gift. I read the Bible in a sustained, uninterrupted way that I never make time to do in my everyday life. I took notes in my journal, I prayed, I read some more. I went on a 23rd Psalm nature walk. Experiencing these very familiar verses in this new way brought me to tears. I listened. I noticed a bird chirping. And then noticed a different bird chirping, then several more. Each one had a different way of talking. These birds are always talking to each other in their individual, mysterious bird languages. They weren’t doing anything different from what they normally do. I just had ears to hear them that day. In my normal life, I never would have stopped long enough to hear each individual chirp.
God is speaking, but the white noise of my daily life drowns out His voice. Taking the time to be quiet and alone with God is how we hear Him best.
In his book The Way of the Heart, Henri Nouwen writes about our quiet time with God as a place of conversion, “the place where the old self dies and the new self if born.” Nouwen writes that silence forces us to get rid of our scaffolding (talking to friends, our phones, social media, work, etc.) and present ourselves naked and vulnerable to God. This can feel uncomfortable, which is why we tend to avoid doing it. But if we push through this discomfort, there is transformation. And this transformation is how we experience God’s peace and renewal. It’s through silence that we invite God into our lives to restore and refresh our tired souls.
The silent retreat made me hungry for more of these quiet moments with God. Whether it is through a Covenant silent retreat or something you do on your own, I wholeheartedly encourage you to make time to listen to God. He is speaking. He wants to speak individually to each one of us. He wants us to put down our phones, turn off the noise all around us, close our eyes, and be transformed by the peace and grace that only He can whisper in our ears. All we have to do is listen.
Covenant will have a Lenten silent retreat from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 17, at the Cederbrake Center in Belton. Sign up here. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.