I want to go. I don’t want to go. I’m on my way to a silent retreat at a monastery in Kentucky to spend a weekend with God.
My apprehension grows as a dear friend and I drive the long, winding, narrow road in early November a few years ago. There’s a small group of us, but we will basically be alone for two days and nights, meditating on Bible verses given to us by a spiritual director. We will also meet with her once by ourselves, then as a group on the last day.
Well, I’m here, but what if God doesn’t show up? Yeah, it would be me who comes for nothing. But then, what if He does? Maybe I don’t really want to meet Him.
I don’t know about you, but I am not comfortable with silence. I’m an introvert who is very happy being alone – if I’m busy with something, but not necessarily happy with real aloneness. If I don’t want to spend time with me, why would God?
Knowing Him inevitably leads to knowing oneself. They go hand in hand. Never have I learned about God without seeing myself more clearly, but I don’t always like what I see.
I record many thoughts in a journal that weekend.
“Want to be alone,
But not with You.”
My spiritual guide gives me four different verses. For one of them, Isaiah 46:3-4, I am to put my name instead of “house of Jacob.”
“Listen to me, O
house of Jacob Gwendolyn, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
Sitting on the edge of my bed, I am suddenly lifted up by strong arms. I can’t see the face of the Giant because of the pattern made by sunlight dappled through leaves as I look up. It’s warm and smells like the woods after the rain. I wrap my arms around His neck and lay my head on His back. His shirt smells like the trees. I am up so high! I laugh at how high I am. I see birds eye-to-eye on the branches. I reach out and touch the leaves and watch the birds flutter away. I feel like I did when I was a little girl and would climb as high as I could. I am somehow there and not there, because now I can see myself on the back of the Giant being carried through the woods as if I am an observer.
The longer we walk, the older I become. I am tired. My arms are weak, withered, and my hair is gray. Still, I lay my head on the Giant’s back and am carried, secure. This is best of all. I feel perfect happiness like I have never felt before. I silently weep for joy.
I weep on the edge of my bed.
Thank you Lord that you wanted to meet me here. That you carried me, that you will always carry me, that You are strong. May I never forget the Giant of the Trees. The One who was nailed to the tree and walked away to walk with me.