Come away with me. I love the sound of those words. They stir something in me. It is so romantic when my husband asks me to come away with him. Perhaps to take a road trip, and go on an adventure together to the unknown. When girlfriends want to have some time away together, there is excitement in the air. But when God’s voice invites me to come away with him, that touches something very deep within me. I’m left speechless, excited, and a bit nervous. I know that it will be more than an adventure if I’m fortunate enough to be given the grace of an encounter with the Divine.
Recently I had the opportunity to go on retreat—a 3-day Ignatian silent directed retreat at St. John’s Catholic Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was more than just another opportunity. We were told that this would be a great gift God was giving us. When we come away from all the noise and activity of daily life to focus intently on God, things happen. God manifests in powerful ways. That proved to be true. The time away was a precious gift to us all.
The wilderness will lead you to your heart where God will speak.
Our instructions were to bring a Bible and a journal. Nothing else. No other reading material and no electronics. That meant no cell phone. We were to make space. To enter into three days and nights of simply enjoying basic life— simple things like eating good food, sleeping well, going on walks, going to daily mass, visiting any one of the three gorgeous chapels on the grounds, and praying with Scripture—talking with God, and more importantly, listening to God. We would have the time to do as monastics do: to dot the day with prayer. And to journal what we were hearing from God.
Let us listen to the voice of God as we enter into His rest.
Through it all, we were to pay attention. To sink into the present moment. To allow God to still us. We individually met with a spiritual director for one hour each day. We were able to share with the director what each day’s experience was like. Spiritual direction is really not direction which would be something active. Rather, it is simply allowing God to speak with you, move in you, and then sharing that experience with another who also desires deepening their relationship with God. I have found this type of spiritual companioning to be deeply healing.
As we began the retreat, we were given some simple instructions. We were invited to reflect on why we came. What we desired of God. A heart desire placed there by God. For me, I was hoping for a deeper sense of God’s love for me. I know that the more I feel divinely, unconditionally loved, the more that kind of love flows out from me to others. I was also hoping for more heart healing—freedom from the things that can distract me and bind me up in fear. Fear stifles authentic love. At our first mass, I sensed that God heard my desires as I listened to the homily and heard, “This time away can be like a deep massage on a wounded place”. To which I thought, “Yes Lord, sign me up for that!” Many of us can relate to carrying old wounds that linger on. Doubting and questioning oneself. Being in a holy place like a monastery can bring about profound awareness and divine healing.
Deep woundedness needs deep healing, and it starts with the grace of a profound surrender.
Thus began three days of simple, thoughtful living at a relaxed pace—eating, sleeping, praying, and worshipping; all with a reflective attitude. I paid attention to the beauty of my surroundings, and to what was going on in my heart. I looked at life with a soft gaze, opening up to God a little bit more.
One of the directors mentioned at the introductory session that silence can be thunderous! Although we were not speaking, God certainly was. We had removed many of the barriers to hearing God’s voice and sensing God’s movements in us and others.
Rest and receive. No striving. God is at work. Let it happen.
At the conclusion of the retreat, we each were asked to share a short phrase to describe our experience. It was striking to see how God uniquely met each person in the way they most needed in the moment. I commented that God had stilled me. I thought of the Scripture passage: Be still and know that I am God. To know God better, one must engage in stillness.
I am grateful that God did give me my desires for the retreat. The gifts I received are special to me. I will hold them close and ponder them in my heart. I was again reminded of the extreme value of peeling away all the distractions and coming away with God. Not easy to do but worth fighting for.
Trust in the slow and gentle work of God.
I know those reading this live in different places throughout the world. I encourage each of you to look into what is available in your area to allow you to come away with God. Some of you know the value of these get aways, but perhaps have not participated in a silent retreat for some time. That was my case. I won’t wait as long for the next one.
I’ll end with Jeremiah 33:3. It has been favorite passage of mine, and a motivation to come away with God so he can share special secret things with us.
“Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell you great things beyond the reach of your knowledge.”
—New American Bible
“Call to me and I will answer you; I will tell you great secrets of which you know nothing.”
—New Jerusalem Bible
“Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out
on your own.” —The Message