Silence. Prayer. God's Word. Peace.
I have to admit it: I was scared. I did not know what I would do with myself for 3 days and nights without speaking to a soul. But that's what I had signed up for - a silent retreat.
I arrived at the ARC retreat center full of questions - and realizing that I did not really know everything I wanted to ask and that if/when I had questions... it would be too late. After all, I was committed or was it "doomed" to silence.
Here's the set-up: There's a little "hermitage" in the woods (just a short walk from the 70's era knotty pie lodge). It has a little "kitchenette" (microwave and fridge). There is no "running water" i.e. no plumbing, but they do provide a couple of jugs of water - one hot for washing and one cool for drinking ( and a bucket under the sink to collect the run-off water).
There's also an outhouse a short walk away with cute little curtain in it... There's a little table and chair, a comfortable chair, a single bed. It's quite comfortable for one.The highlight of the hermitage, however, is the screened in porch.
Although the lodge and the road are but a short walk away, it feels as if you are in the middle of the woods.
Another highlight is that my meals were provided by a basket, left at the door, with instructions for reheating in the microwave if needed. It wasn't the ascetic hermitage with bread and water that I had imagined. There was bread -- but it was homemade and delicious!
And there was more. I don't remember signing up for vegetarian, but the vegetarian meals that they served were amazing.
The only downside was the abundance of mosquitos and gnats. No one mentioned, when I signed up, that the ARC was on the edge of a marsh. I could not walk outside without being bombarded with mosquitos. Luckily, there was a road - not far from the hermitage - that had enough mowed area that I could walk it without hunkering down under my hooded sweatshirt, swatting mosquitos at every step. There was a reason that I was the only guest at the retreat center!
(At the end, they said, that their busy time is in the fall, winter and spring. In the summer, they have a few mosquitos. My response: Oh really.)
Mosquitos aside, this was a wonderful place to: pray, read scripture, drink in the beauty of God's creation, walk, eat, repeat. I did not come from the retreat with great discernment or new ideas. But I was reminded: God is Good. God is with us. Always. God's creation - even the mosquitos - are amazing. (It was the mosquitos that woke me up on the second day. This sounds like an odd thing to be thankful for - yet because I was awake early... REALLY early, I had done my devotion, had my breakfast and my reading and so was able to make it to a silent mediation at the lodge by 7:30a.m.)
Throughout it all, I was filled with thanks for the opportunity to take a breath and t take time to pray, read, think, walk.... repeat. It felt like a huge gift.
My plan was to "Break" my silent retreat with worship with the ARC staff on my last morning. But then I discovered that they practiced silent mediation every morning -- their worship was silent!
So it was one more opportunity to be silent - but within a community.
I came away from this experience with two insights - old and yet renewed:
1) God is with us - we simply need to take time to listen.
2) God blesses us with the little things, even things that don't at first seem like a blessing - such as the buzz of a mosquito that woke me up for morning prayer.
3) It doesn't matter "where you are" in your prayer life/journey/path. God wants a prayer relationship with YOU and with me and is very gracious/patient/ earnest in seeking you and me.
Peace and blessings in the seemingly small parts of life as we learn to lean into God's blessings.