I was struck by the post here last week “Solitude in a World of iPad Apps” about an article by Fr. Jim Martin, SJ. On the day it was posted here, I was ending an 8 day silent retreat at the Jesuit Retreat House in Colorado. When I first arrived on retreat, I followed my usual routine and left my muted phone plugged in my room so I could check in with my husband and be available in case my children left me a message (with the OK of my spiritual director). But on the first day of retreat, I casually picked up my “new and improved” phone – the one that now brings me email from two accounts as well as the Facebook postings updated by my nieces and nephews constantly. It was seductively easy to move from checking email to checking Facebook postings. I also checked the weather for home and for Colorado. All in silence, of course.
I looked up and was unnerved to realize I had just spent 35 minutes on my cell phone. I knew this was not the way I wanted to live my retreat for the next 8 days, so I unplugged and tucked my phone away in a drawer, bringing it out only at night for a phone call home.
Jim Martin wrote that “without some inner silence, it becomes harder to listen to God’s voice within.” Even in a silent retreat house, it took me several days to quiet the constant chatter in my head: the ideas for our website at work, the things I want to pack for a family vacation, daydreams of our daughter’s upcoming wedding. But as that inner silence seeped into my soul in those days, undistracted by cell phone and internet, I began to hear the quiet voice of God.
I need to clear the clutter of my everyday life sometimes, to make room for God to work in me. The silence of a retreat helps me hear God’s invitation to open my heart and surrender my soul in a deeper way. It helps me to untangle myself from the many responsibilities, tasks and even relationships that can keep me from being free enough to respond to God with my whole heart.
When I return home, I always pledge, with mixed success, to slow my life down and pay attention more to the world around me. But the most powerful way for me to maintain my contact with God and with the graces of my retreat is by getting up before anyone else in the house to sit in silence with God. Whether it is five minutes in the early morning darkness before work or a more leisurely time on a weekend morning, I offer myself and my day to God and ask to find the path being set before me.
God invites us, “Come and rest in me.” No matter how hectic our lives have gotten, it’s an invitation that is always open to us.