Listening to the Silence

light breaking through

“The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days.” Revelation 12:6

I, too, flee to the desert twice a year for a silent retreat, but I don’t get to stay twelve hundred and sixty days. I wish! Marymount Hermitage, a place in the desert definitely prepared by God, is located between Cambridge and Council off Highway 95. You have to slow to a snail’s pace to find the dirt road into it. The idea of going on silent retreat was unheard of to me at first…and people who knew me were skeptical. “No way you could be silent for 10 minutes let alone three days,” they chortled. Boy, did I prove them wrong!

Marymount is a land of desert silence. I say it’s silent; the fact is the critters and creatures there make lots of noise, but it’s not human noise. I make a ritual of turning my phone off as I hit the cattle gate going in and it stays off until I cross the gate going out. I stay in a small hermitage with a lovely porch that overlooks what I first called the ravine but is actually called the ridge and draw. I can watch the sun come up on the left side of the porch in the morning and go down on the right side of the porch in the evening—and I have spent entire days out there, listening to the silence. Usually four or five days at a time.

The rhythm of the day is marked by the Daily Office in the morning, called Lauds and Vespers at the end of the day, which I pray with the hermit sister who lives there. I’m clumsy and fumble with it some days, but I usually have it down pretty well by the end of my retreat. The rest of the time I’m hiking around Marymount’s one hundred acres or sitting on the afore mentioned porch.

What’s the point, you may ask, and understandably so. The point is that I can hear God’s still small voice so much better when I’m not hearing much else. There is no one else to talk to at the hermitage except God. And God speaks vividly to me through all that goes on around me. The consistent message is, “I love you.” God’s “I love you” comes through the birdsong and through the teeny blinking eyes of the little lizard who often shares my sun on the porch. Each little creature goes about their daily ritual, doing what God created them to do, and, in that, God says to me, I love you. One day I sat and watched a little bee go from wildflower to wildflower. In that instinctual activity of just doing what bees do, God’s love was so evident. I can learn so much from the bee or the sage grouse or the jackrabbits. The message from God is so simple and pure. “I love you. Come sit with me and I’ll show you.”

It’s important for me to always share what I have learned on retreat; it isn’t meant for me alone. I usually come away with a renewed heart for loving others, having been loved so well myself. The quiet can last beyond my retreat, too, which I especially shoot for. I’m not so likely to turn the TV on just for company, when I remember what good company the silence can be. I continue the practice of prayerful reading or study, too. And I try to bookend my day with an abbreviated version of the Office and a prayerful Examen. I TRY to bring the silence back with me and I usually do for a week or so. And then the sound finds a way to seep back in. It’s OK, though. I can read through the journals I keep on retreat and go right back there, to the porch, in the silence.

For information on Marymount Hermitage please check out their web page:
www.marymount-hermitage.org

Prayer...

Gracious God who receives us with open arms,
Show us your glory in the silence. Let us hear the still small voice Elijah heard from the entrance of his cave. Help us to pass along all the love we glean from you in the silence. For your voice is quiet but your message is vivid and strong. And I love you, too. Amen.

Heidi Gainan

Heidi Gainan

Member of Immanuel Lutheran Church
Boise, ID

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Mary Braudrick

    What heavenly experiences you’ve had, Heidi. Thank you for not keeping this place a secret. I’m going to go, someday, to better hear the still small voice of God.

  2. Vivian Parrish

    Thanks Heidi, it is a true joy to be in silence. My retreat place is the Monastery of St. Gertrude and have attended a number of Come to the Quiet, week long silent retreats there. You can spend some time with a Spirit Director if you like. We have so much to learn about ourselves in the silence and about God. Vivian Parrish Shepherd of the Valley.

  3. Connie

    The joy and love you feel for this retreat jumped off the pages. Thank you for not being silent on this experience! It was beautiful.

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