Posts Tagged 'retreat'

Discernment

Jen and Arianne, two very wise young women I know recently described discernment as “a dark place with questions.” Ever since hearing that characterization, I’ve been struck by how accurate it is. Now typically darkness isn’t a very attractive place to be! And certainly we’d rather have answers than questions. But is there a different way to approach this “dark place with questions” other than with fear and trepidation? Maybe so…

Darkness is the place of fertility for growing seeds; it is also the place out of which the rising sun emerges. Darkness, even for the discomfort it might bring, needn’t be completely frightening if we can perceive that it is the place of waiting and not the final destination.

And how about questions? Contemporary society doesn’t seem to like questions and ambiguity very much—we’d much rather have straight answers and clear-cut outlines. Is it right or wrong? Should I pursue this or that? Is God saying yes or no? But the questions are what stretch our faith and deepen our trust, leading us to believe in God’s answers rather than our own. And living with the questions rather than demanding the answers is what will make us more open, more faithful, and more humble.

So, discernment: “the dark place with questions.” It could be an intimidating place of scary uncertainties…if we choose to perceive it that way. But it could also be a fertile place of stronger relationship with God…if we decide we will let it be.

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Retreating

I’m of that generation that remembers what it was like before cell phones. And 3G. And vocabularies that held words like “qwerty” and “blogosphere.” And even (dare I say it?) iStuff. My nieces and nephews sometimes find me and my peers entertaining as we hand over our new technology to their much more expert abilities and understandings, only to have them returned to us with ringtones that embarrass us in the middle of grocery stores and screensavers that force us to profess our love for Justin Bieber. Fear not, though, I have acquired enough techno-sophistication to spare myself such embarrassment and false allegiances. But what I haven’t figured out is why, once I start using all that “stuff,” it so readily finds a somewhat indispensible place in my day-to-day life, especially considering how easily I lived without it not too long ago.

In a few days, I will be headed off for my annual 6-day silent retreat. Gasps from the crowd, I know, but I love it. And I crave it every single year—six entire days of inaccessibility, of quiet, of solitude, with all that time, space, and energy to be able to center solely and completely on God and the “stuff” of the spiritual life. Now don’t get me wrong—I’m not anti-technology (obviously—I’m writing for a blog, for heaven’s sake!) but I do recognize its limitations and its inherent vortex characteristic that gets me all wrapped up in minutes, newsfeeds, updates, and tweets. Again, I’m not anti-that. But sometimes it literally gets me all a-twitter and makes it too easy for me to forget what’s truly important—what’s truly Real. So…as I enter into six blissful days of silence, I may not have an iPhone or an iPad with me, but I will have one ‘i’ with me: the great I Am. And that’s more than enough.



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