A Voxer notification appeared from my friend Mike:
Hi Rachel, I’ve been thinking about you and wondering what you would think of spending a half a day or a whole day on a silent retreat away from social media and family and friends. We would be happy to help with your kids to make this possible if this feels like something you would desire…It seems like there is fear and trembling to get to silence but once you are there, it soothes you.
I took a deep breath, noticing a brewing feeling of panic combined with the warmth of being seen and cared for by my dear friend who knows that Jesus is the place where my soul can find rest. For several months now, Mike has led a small group of us in silence and centering prayer. Entering contemplative practices with close friends has helped me feel less alone and intimidated. We spend the first moments of each meeting in silence, getting our bodies comfortable, and then begin the process of a repeating a word or phrase to God that speaks to our intention to be with Him.
One particular evening, Mike set a timer for seven minutes. As the time began, I was drowning in frenetic energy, restlessly vacillating between to-do lists and recounting words spoken to a friend earlier that I feared may have been misinterpreted. As the distractions lost some intensity, I repeated the word HOME, holding my deep longing out before God that He is the very best shelter for my heart. As I uttered this word, a familiar but piercing ache emerged right below my rib cage, resting above a hollow pit.
The word reminded me of a profound moment in my counseling career, when I met with a woman I’d developed a deep affection for. This dear client had trusted me with sacred memories of neglect in her story. We shed tears together and witnessed pieces of her glory and creativity emerge from the rubble. Together, we offered care for her younger parts and saw the presence of God in a rich way. During one session, she told me the little girl in her had been resting securely on my lap for quite some time, but now she felt compelled to invite her back to her true and best home. She played me the song “Temporary Home” by Carrie Underwood:
This is my temporary home
It’s not where I belong
Windows in rooms that I’m passin’ through
This is just a stop on the way to where I’m going
I’m not afraid because I know this is my
As we listened together in tears, she spoke to the power and goodness of what it was like to receive mothering from me. She also acknowledged that God and the adult version of herself were the very best home for her heart. Like my client, I’ve found home in good-hearted people who love me for who I am, just for being, and not for what I offer. And yet, I also know that while these other homes have been God’s grace and provision, they fall short of the deepest longing I was made for.
As I lay on the couch in the company of dear friends, repeating the word in my heart, my breathing and heart rate eased. I thought about my own daughters when they were newborns, lying skin to skin on my chest as I watched their bodies rise up and down in coordination with my own. In that moment of deep prayer, I became like the tiny child again, synchronizing my body with my Creator, fully embodied. I thought of the words of David Frenette, a teacher on centering prayer, who said that as we enter into God’s sacred presence, we gradually become a sacred word ourselves, spoken to the world around us.
As we enter the Advent season, may silence be an invitation to our hearts to return home to a chest that is beating with Love.
The One whose name is Love, who left His home and went to the far country, where there was no room at the inn, so that we may know the embodied presence of God.
I am taking my friend Mike up on his invitation to a silent retreat. As I go next week, I carry hope that as I ponder His descent, I will prepare Him room to indwell in the emptiness of my own body, that I may find my home in Him, that He might make His home in me.
Rachel Blackston loves all things beautiful…rich conversations over a hot cup of lemon ginger tea, watching her three little girls twirl around in tutus, and Florida sunrises on her morning walks. She resides in Orlando with her lanky, marathon running husband and her precious daughters, priceless gifts after several years of infertility. Rachel and her husband Michael cofounded Redeemer Counseling. As a therapist, Rachel considers it an honor to walk with women in their stories of harm, beauty, and redemption.
Rachel, thank you. Your words are a gift to me today, reminding me of that place of shelter, and love, and rest. I hope your silent retreat is restorative in the ways your heart most needs.