by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
Fifteen of us just returned Sunday afternoon after a two-night contemplative retreat at Conception Abbey, Conception, Missouri. We did not make retreat to “do our spirituality on retreat” and then return to “normal living” back home. No, we made retreat to re-learn how to be present to g-d AT HOME. Retreat is simply an exercise room – a place to learn new ways of listening to the voice of g-d, and a new way of loving others. To make retreat just for our own selfish introspection is the exact opposite reason why anyone would follow Jesus: “Follow me and I will make you fish for others.”
To seek union with God that would imply complete separation (from others) would be to a Christian saint not only absurd but the very opposite of sanctity. – Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert, p.17
The reason we make retreat is to go home. Home is where the fruit of the Spirit is eaten: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. No one needs these virtues while on retreat (though I’d find it very difficult to be in solitude, silence and prayer without some patience and self-control!) But to go home – now we will need kindness, patience, self-control, etc.
We went on retreat to face our sin and demons. We made retreat to stand up to our self in the mirror – and see our false self and call it out: Judger, Fornicator, Liar… and then receive from Jesus our new name, our new identity, our true self: Rock, Sons of Thunder, Friend, Brother, Beloved, World-Changer, Holy One, Fishers-of-Others, or even Martyrs.
On retreat we hear from Jesus, “I like you.” Jesus doesn’t love us because he has to, because of some “theological necessity.” No, it is more like this…
You fish, and then we will cook and eat the fish together, and sit around the fire together. I have all of heaven at my beck and call. But I have no where else I’d rather be than to be with you. – Jesus
Go home – but do not follow your old pattern of the day. It is time to disrupt the status quo. How? For starters attend Lectio Divina each Wednesday morning, 6:30 a.m. at the Soul Sanctuary’s Prayer Circle. Bring your journal, Bible and pen, and continue to listen for the voice of g-d in Scripture and with others.
Do this: set your phone alarm during day and stop for a prayer or reading at lunch time or mid-morning. Yes, it will come as an interruption – that’s what we are talking about! Do life different.
More: turn off the radio on the way to work or at home.
The church celebrates the resurrection of Jesus April 4th this year. Begin your new habit or rhythm today and continue at least until Easter.
No one ever drifted into a deeper abiding with Jesus. No one ever continued to do the same thing and got different results. This makes me think of the old Dallas Cowboys’ coach, Tom Landry, quote:
My job is to get you to do the things you don’t want to do, so you can become the men you always wanted to be.
Thank you Jesus. Amen.