I am on a retreat at a center that hosts retreats for groups and individuals. When I booked my time here I was glad to learn that a women’s group was also scheduled for part of the time that I am here, and that they would be silent as well. The day they were to arrive, the director found me in the hall and reminded me that they would be silent and were concerned that I should know this; she also assured me they knew I am here on silent retreat. However, they have proved to be either not at all serious about silence or very bad at it. When they arrived they were quite raucous up until the first mass. Then most of them settled down. Except for their leaders! They stand outside my door at any hour of the day, even into the late night hours, chatting. They sit in the lobby just outside the chapel and catty-corner to my room and chatter. They occupy the kitchenette that I am supposed to have at my disposal for some sort of private talks. And they chat in various other hallways etc. If they really need to talk, why can’t they use one of their own rooms? This is a source of enormous distraction for me and profound irritation; it also limits my physical use of much of the facility; I don’t feel free to use any of the spaces they are occupying. I really abhor it when they linger outside my door chatting; even with “hushed” voices it is as if they are IN my room! And they know this room is occupied because there is a sign of welcome to me, taped on the front!
There are only four ways I know how to deal with this. 1) Turn it into a spiritual exercise and ask the Lord to help me ignore them, quell the irritation within me, and direct my mind ever-more nearly to His Presence. 2) Put on some lovely but prayer-conducive music to act as a buffer. 3) Gently confront those outside my door when it is unbearable and their proximity is obviously ridiculous. 4) Make a complaint to the administration when it is time to make an evaluation.
The extra source of irritation to me is somewhat self-imposed. I can’t help but think that they might think my needs are secondary to theirs, and thus, practically speaking, not meriting respect. I suspect they will think this way because 1) their behavior seems to reflect that, and 2) it’s all too common for the majority to disrespect the needs of the minority. However, it is true that I don’t know what these people think. And even if any of them do think as I suspect, it shouldn’t stop me from respecting myself and the fact that I’ve paid for the use of these facilities. Even so, I think it is up to me to dissolve that layer of irritation; i.e. it’s simply not my concern if they harbor wrong thinking.
I guess “venting” my raw emotions about this here is a fifth way. Why is it so important to be “heard”? Ha! I don’t even know that anyone reads this blog, so it is unlikely that my voice is being heard through this medium. Writing does however let me acknowledge my thoughts and validate my feelings about experiences. And releasing some of my frustrated energy this way frees me to turn my attention in new directions.
So, Lord, why would You allow so many noises into my silence? So many irritations to threaten my peace? So many distractions to my respite? The only thing I can think is that, beyond the pathetically ordinariness of it all, You have allowed it even in Your Gracious Love to be a special lesson or challenge for me, meant to strengthen me.
But how? By leaning on You. So here I come, Lord. I’m leaning heavily on You. My voice on Your ears, my “tears” on Your shoulder, my neediness on Your lap.
Thank You Abba-Jesus-Spirit for
- Bach, esp. the Goldberg Variations
- Scarlatti, esp. Sonata in D, K.491 (L 164)
- Yo-Yo Ma
- Amazon Prime
- Magnificat subscription
- Good coffee
- a space away
- access to You through prayer
- the ability to think, feel, write, listen, reflect
- the geese that were preening along the little island bank outside my window
- the covering of snow over every little thing
- the internet!
- this blog!
- for other retreat centers that host silence well!
- for the passing of time and most everything
- Christ’s humanity!
- that Christ’s humanity didn’t preclude Him having human needs or becoming weak at times, or even experiencing temptation
- that Christ submitted everything, His humanity, His divinity, everything, to Abba’s will, and trusted that Abba is sufficient.
Lord Jesus Christ, help me. You have helped me so profoundly through so many deep valleys. Please help me with these little stumbling blocks too.
I’ve been reading some reflections by mothers whose children were killed in violent mass shootings. One of them writes regarding Lent: “Forty days purposefully to embrace hunger, expose weakness, receive his mercy, and grow in the grace he willingly offers. I give thanks for the invitation and enter willingly, confident of the miracle that awaits.”
I admit, I haven’t been expecting any miracle. And I didn’t really think of this as a time to deliberately “expose weakness.” However, how else can the Lord heal me, unless I uncover my wounds and wounded-ness to His healing gaze and touch? So apparently, one of my weaknesses is to feel threatened when others “invade” “my” space. Yes, sometimes it really is my space, and yes it really has been invaded at various times in various ways in the past. But sometimes what feels like invasion is simply that the reality of the circumstances demand a sharing of spaces, and even that can feel threatening to me. I suppose largely because my personal boundaries were so completely violated when I was younger. But now that I am older and have more command of myself, I should be able to manage some legitimate sharing! And to do so graciously and gratefully. By the way, my apologies to any readers who might cringe at my use of “should.” I dare to use this word with myself when I really believe it is appropriate and what I actually mean. I nearly never use it with anyone else. If my “should-s” to myself offend you, by all means, please edit them to a better word for your own sensibility.
So what is this miracle I might expect, Lord? I guess the content and nature of that is up to You! But the expectation is up to me, n’est-çe pas? I’ve always loved it that we are called to await the Lord with “expectation,” much like a mother expecting the delivery of her child. So, Lord, although I don’t know what this miracle will be, I welcome Your new life within my spirit; let it be done unto me as You will. I give my fiat.