A couple of weeks ago, I felt like I was being called to temporarily remove myself from my daily life. Things had been very busy with little downtime (my fault). As the crazy making reached a crescendo, I knew silence was calling. I have heard others say that when you answer a call to ministry, it is affirmed by others. Well, this calling to silent retreat was affirmed by others that I consider messengers of God.
First, our guest teacher taught an adult class about self-compassion which reminded me of “monkey brain” and the need for loving self-talk and meditation. Next, I read a blog by my rector which said it’s good practice to choose a theme for a pilgrimage. I thought about that and “silence and rest” came to me. Last, I met with my spiritual director who helped me choose the right location and gave me permission to do nothing but sleep if that’s what I needed.
I resisted the temptation to bring anything with me that resembled work, even writing thank you notes. When the retreat center offered a massage appointment, I declined because I didn’t want to have any schedule to keep other than showing up for a meal.
On the way to the retreat house, I saw a likely homeless man at the corner. With no Bag of Grace to offer (this is a bag with water, snacks, etc. from St. Mary’s), I hated to ignore this man. I had some cold water with me so I rolled down my window and asked him if he would like some water. He said he sure would because it was getting hot already. I asked him his name - it was Bruce. I usually tell people I meet like this I will pray for them but similar to what happened in my earlier post, “What Does Jesus Look Like?” I couldn’t because I suddenly felt too emotional. We chatted and I drove off with a lump in my throat for several miles.
As I was being shown to my room at the retreat house, we passed a sign posted for an Al-Anon meeting that night at 7 pm. I asked my guide if I could attend – yes. That would be my one planned activity. (Al-Anon is a support group for people affected by the addiction of a loved one.) This had been on my list of to-do’s for some time but I hadn’t found the time or the right group.
It was surprisingly easy to unplug. As my brain emptied out, I slept and read and sat still. I came around the corner of the patio to see a huge male peacock perched on a table. He was beautiful and I remembered the peacocks that roam the neighborhood of my spiritual director. She had told me there were peacocks at the retreat house but I had forgotten. I watched bunnies hop and eat. I walked the labyrinth and let the path guide me without having to think about my steps.
That night, as I walked over to the Al-Anon meeting, the peacock perched on top of a roof as I passed by. It seemed he was a messenger that my spiritual director was encouraging me. Although I didn’t share, I cried more in this meeting than I have cried in any other similar support group meeting. And I spent years in these meetings when my son was in early recovery from substance abuse. This meeting was exactly where I needed to be. If you are not familiar with the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, they include among other things, to turn your life and will over to God. Al-Anon also utilizes these steps and they really apply to anyone because these steps are a pathway to God and healthy relationships with others. As I pursue this new life in ministry, I still find it difficult to let go. This meeting was a needed reminder, not only to trust God but to let go of my codependent concern for others, mostly my older son’s well being and behavior. I asked for a “desire chip” which means that I made a commitment to work the program.
When I came back from retreat, I felt a great peace and noticed all the beauty around me like this beautiful passion flower that welcomed me home. I could appreciate all the goodness again. The weekend wrapped up by attending our older son’s five-year sobriety milestone celebration at the local Alcoholics Anonymous group - plenty of tears all around. There were many messengers that shared their stories and reinforced my call to work the 12 Steps for my own well-being and relationship with God.
Who are the messengers that cross your path and what is God telling you through them?
Follow this link to the 12 Steps of Alcoholic Anonymous. If you are not in recovery, you can utilize these steps by replacing the world “alcohol” with “others.” http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/smf-121_en.pdf