In November of last year I went on a 5 day retreat of silence and solitude. It was terrifying and exhilarating and difficult. From the moment I left the retreat center I knew that God was calling me to make this discipline a regular part of my life, and in what has turned out to be the loudest, most chaotic 5 months since my retreat, my heart has begun to ache for the silence. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe; like one more action item, one more meeting, even one more thought will push me beyond my limit and I will just… cease.
This morning for the first time in a while I sat down to talk to God. I had so much to tell him, so much I needed to ask him for, and so much I needed to vent to him about. When I got it all out, and went to put my journal away a piece of paper fell out. It was the prayer given to me by Sister Jo Ann from my silence retreat. She said God had given her this prayer for me, and said to hold on to it. I’m so thankful I did.
Prayer of Teilhard de Chardin
Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are, quite naturally, impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We would like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually – let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time, (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming in you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete. Amen.
I once heard Dallas Willard say that silence and solitude are disciplines of abstinence; seeing what God does when I don’t. I want to trust that deeply. I want to believe that God’s hand is leading me. I want to resist the temptation to run from the anxiety of my incompleteness, and dive head first into this terrifying “in-between” space, choosing to believe the mysteries ahead will be unlocked as I embark on the adventure of silence and solitude.
“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14