Silent Retreat Day 1

March 30, 2012: Silent Retreat Day 1

Over the past six or seven years I have been trying to engage a more mystical and mysterious side of my Christian faith.For most of my life faith has been plain, sanitary and logical.

This fact is illustrated by the décor of the churches I was born into, attended and worked in for 30+ years. Usually the walls were white. The pews were brown and the carpet was some color of ghastly orange.This was certainly low church and mostly Baptist. If there was any aesthetic in the architecture it was utilitarian or quite possibly by accident.  Any additional color came from stained glass windows.

It wasn’t until college that I was exposed to the mysterious sides of the faith. I finished my undergraduate work at a Lutheran university, where part of my course education was to work in two different Lutheran churches.Here I was introduced to the church calendar with its colors, seasons and lectionary. It was here that my Baptist Lord’s Supper sparred with the Lutheran Communion.How could the body and blood of Christ be “in, with and around” the elements? It was just bread and juice (not even wine).

These initial encounters started me thinking.It would take several more years before I would want to intentionally balance my left brain, logical and vanilla faith with the unknown, unexplainable and experiential side of Christianity.

Needless to say it happened.

One of the places it has happened most obviously for me is in the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude.I had no clue how to interact with God in solitude, purposely setting time aside to spend with him. It was awkward — and still is awkward — like your first Jr. High crush.  All I could think about was that girl who consumed my thoughts, invaded my dreams and enlived my heart.  When I finally got her full attention I had no idea what to do with it, no idea how to say what wasn’t offensive or stupid, how to act within social norms, how to feel something other than nausea.

Over the past three years I have tried to alleviate the discomfort and awkwardness by intentionally spending time alone with God.  A few scattered days of silence and solitude here and there and a weekend this time last year.But being alone is both thought provoking and unsettling.Finding yourself alone or lonely is different then carving out time to sit in the uneasiness of staring God in the face and having his full attention (or giving him your full attention).

Last night, as the time approached when we, friends, husbands, wives and total strangers would cease to interact with each other, forsaking our community ties to talk to and listen to God, I could feel myself sinking. Sinking into the moment. Sinking into silence. Almost as if passing through a tunnel to emerge from the other side in a different world, with different rules and relationships. This time I was aware of my own discomfort and excitement.

I expected little and hoped for much. Hoping to hear God speak loud and clear. Hoping to understand that which has confused me. Hoping to grow deeper and more mature. All the while expecting none of these to actually happen.

It was during communion that each person sank themselves.As the bread and wine were passed from person to person we served each other. Each one speaking our last words, “The body of Christ given for you. The blood of Christ shed for you.” And then as if holding our breath we dove into silence being at peace with Almighty God.

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