Before leaving on my 5-day silent retreat, I remember telling a number of people that I had no idea what to expect for that time away. I'd never done an extended retreat of silence before, and I'd heard numerous stories of people who had done it and came away fully surprised by what emerged during their time of quiet. I wanted to remain open to whatever God wanted to do.
But still, I had some ideas in mind for what God and I might talk about.
The timing of the retreat coincided well with a transition season in my life. I was coming to the end of two programs that had been equipping me for the work of ministry, and I wanted to talk to God about next steps. I have a small little business in which I do a number of contract and freelance projects for various companies and organizations, but I know all the education and training in ministry I've been getting these last 3-4 years are for a purpose other than just those projects.
But still, other than suspecting God and I would talk about next steps and dream ahead together vocationally, and other than the handful of books I'd brought along with me to do some research for my final graduate project, I had no sense of expectation for the week.
I really didn't know what would happen, and I felt okay with that.
Every path leads somewhere
Then, as I shared in my previous post, I drove down to Captiva Island on the first day of my retreat and began listening to Kari Jobe's worship album about 45 minutes before landing at my destination. A greater sense of expectation emerged as I listened to one of my favorite songs on the album, called "Joyfully," that depicts such a relationship of love in the song for Jesus. It expresses well my own love for Jesus, and I listen to it often and sing it aloud, too, as a declaration of my love.
But then I noticed that when "Joyfully" ended and the next song began, it, too, declared that love relationship with Jesus . . . as did the next one . . . and the next.
So there I was, driving along, feeling like my heart was starting to bubble over with greater and greater love for Jesus with each passing song, and I started to feel like I could not get enough of him. I felt myself becoming so abandoned to him in worship as I drove along inside that car.
It felt like a wonderful way to begin my retreat.
And nestled inside that feeling of abandonment to Jesus came a new expectation for the week. I told my retreat spiritual director the next morning that I felt an expectation of greater boldness emerging.
I shared with her there are places in my life where I feel quite at home in my own skin as a person totally in love with Jesus and that people know that truth in me. But there are other places where I feel more shy about that truth. These are places where I expect my love for Jesus won't be welcome, where I might be pre-judged to be a certain way once someone learns I am a Christian, and where people I respect and really feel a sense of kinship with might not return or even discover that sense of kinship because they'll think it is not possible if I'm a Jesus lover.
Does that make sense?
Taking the path
Anyway, that feeling of bubbling adoration that emerged on my drive to Captiva reminded me of a conversation I'd had with a friend the previous week in which I'd realized this fractured sense at work in myself: the places where I am truly myself and the places where I guard and hide who I really am because I fear someone's rejection.
In the conversation I'd had with my friend the previous week, I'd come to declare: I'm in love with Jesus. That's simply who I am. Any attempt to stifle that truth or subdue it simply isn't genuine. It makes for less of me.
So as I held all this -- the conversation with my friend, the bubbling adoration that emerged in the car on the way down, and the first conversation I shared with my retreat director -- I began to wonder if the retreat week ahead would carry with it a greater emboldening. Perhaps part of what God wanted to do was set me and my voice free.
But the truth is, I really had no idea what would happen. I was, however, about to find out . . .