Just Show Up – The Cenacle Experience (Part 1)
It is amazing how much can be heard when you remove yourself from the noise. I arrived at the Cenacle Monday morning with no expectations except to make the time to be in prayer. I was shown to my room which would be my haven for the next three days.
I put my stuff down, took the picture and then sat down on the bed. It was raining outside so it wasn’t conducive to taking a walk along the manicured grounds or a siesta in one of the many hammocks strategically placed throughout the property, or to rock in one of the many swings under the large pine and oak trees. Glancing at my watch I noticed I still had two hours before lunch and three before my first meeting with a spiritual advisor assigned to ‘guide’ me during the retreat.
The silence was deafening. I reached for one of the devotionals I view every day, “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. “Stop worrying long enough to hear my voice,” it read. ”I speak softly to you in the depths of your being…my thoughts rise up within you, they become entangled in the webs of worry. Thus my voice is muffled and you only hear ‘white noise’…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
I put the book down on the nightstand and took a deep breath. Clearly God led me here and I needed to listen. Silence.
There wasn’t even the tick of a clock. I checked my watch fifteen minutes had passed. I reached in my bag for my journal and decided to write down a few things that had me ‘worried’. The more I wrote the tighter my chest became with anxiety. It was clear I needed to let these things go. I sat back and looked at my watch. One hour had passed since I arrived. Anxious and frustrated with myself I grabbed my phone and headphones. Listening to music used to be the only way I could think. I left the confines of my room and found a rocker in the main seating area. No one else was around and even if they were I didn’t care. I sat in the rocker, listened to my music and rocked till it was time for lunch.
I found the kitchen where there was a mini cafeteria style set up and the chef waiting. She smiled. I smiled. Am I allowed to say hello? I thought. I went against the grain and said, “Thank you.” I couldn’t help it. I took my tray into the little room where I directed to go and found a set up I’d never seen before.
Being the first in the room I chose the seat that appeared to give me a clear outside view. Later I realized every seat in here gave you essentially the same view. Eating in silence with only my thoughts to entertain me made me realize how fast I eat. Conscious of the two other retreatants sitting at tables behind me I slowed down taking deliberate bites. Sitting on the table to my right I saw a clock and realized I had only been there for 15 minutes. I still had an hour before I met with my Spiritual Guide. Suddenly the salad in front of me was not only nourishment but entertainment as well. Could I get the seeds of the tomato out with the tine of my fork one by one without touching that leaf of lettuce? Could I get a perfect bite with lettuce, tomato, bacon bit, and even a cucumber stacked neatly in one spear of the fork?
By the time I finished I managed to kill another 15 minutes. Back in my room I sat down on the bed and realized how boring I was if even my own thoughts couldn’t entertain me. I sat down and wrote some more in my journal finally bringing myself to face the truth. I was resistant to the work that I knew that needed to be done. Procrastination usually isn’t my forte but I was doing well with it this morning.
Finally the time came to have my hour and speak with another human one that would hopefully kick me in the rear and get me going. The hour came and went. I tried to convey the heaviness I was feeling inside. The uncertainty. The frustration. The main guidance she had for me? God loves me and I need to REST. I needed to learn to take a spiritual rest. I was to find the scripture on Sabbath rest and read Psalm 139.
The rain continued to come down in sheets outside. I trudged back to my room. I wasn’t disappointed in the spiritual director. She was good. There was truth to what she was saying. Much of my anxiety was the expectations I was putting upon myself on a daily basis and then not being able to achieve them due to extenuating circumstances. Just hearing her say ‘rest’ made tears come to my eyes. “Don’t be afraid to sleep,” she had said.
I laid down on the bed and closed my eyes.
But I couldn’t sleep!! I couldn’t sleep. I tried. My mind was so loud with nothing of importance. I was restless and I couldn’t sleep or rest. So I put the music back on. Finally, by listening to Mercy Me, Third Day, Matthew West and Shawn McDonald I was able to zone out and find a place of quiet and peace.
At 5pm was evening prayer, then dinner which went the very same as lunch. Back in my room I opened my bible to Psalm 139 and wrote down what struck me:
“You understand and know my thoughts.” v.2 “I praise you, so wonderfully you made me.” v.14 “Probe me, God, know my heart; try me, know my concerns.” v.23 I sighed…that one hit home. “See if my way is crooked then lead me in ancient paths.” v. 24
I looked up ‘Sabbath Rest’ in the back of the bible and was directed to Genesis 2:1-3 again I wrote what struck me, “He rested from all the work He had undertaken.”
I checked my watch, 7pm. There was a Christian Meditation group meeting in the chapel. Anything to get me out of the room was a blessing and I figured I needed to practice meditation. For half an hour I repeated ‘come Holy Spirit’ (because I couldn’t understand the word they said to say) trying desperately to get in that ‘zone’. Back in my room by 8pm I got ready for bed and once again laid down waiting for rest to come. Instead my mind blared like an obnoxious TV commercial advertising all of the things that made me anxious.
Desperate to get my mind elsewhere I reached for the book I’d been reading. I finished it by midnight and finally managed to end the first day of my ‘silent’ retreat.
I had no idea how I could get through another 24 hours but God had much more in store for me….