Last weekend, I was away on a 2-day Ignatian retreat. This retreat was unique from all the others I attended or staffed in a few ways.
For one thing, the retreat was more contemplative, focusing on a series of reflections that centered on who we thought Christ was, forgiveness, and the idea of dying to oneself and rising in Christ.
I spent a lot more time in silence during this retreat than any other retreat. It wasn’t a silent retreat, but the contemplative nature of the retreat and the gorgeous almost-spring weather prompted me to forget about trying to make small talk and enjoy my surroundings. This was especially true on Friday evening, when I caught sight of the night sky as I was walking towards the Stations of the Cross. It’s true what they say, y’all. The stars at night are bigger and brighter in Texas. It was like seeing them for the first time. When there was a long break on Saturday afternoon, I walked around the retreat property, appreciating all the wildflowers and trees. But my favorite place was a small lake that was perfect for skipping rocks. It was so nice and quiet there.
One thing I learned in this retreat is that when you spend time in silence, there is nothing standing between you and God. During the times I spent in silence, I realized that I was still holding parts of myself back from God. I also had problems enjoying the moment because on the one hand, I didn’t want the retreat to end. On the other hand, I was already longing for the trip home and the promise of fries and ICEEs from Buc-ees.
I went to this retreat seeking out answers and came home with my heart and conscience clear, but my future still uncertain. In spite of the uncertainty, though, I feel like I found a starting point. My life with Christ starts with me dying to myself and letting Christ have all of my heart. I found detachment from a lot of things I was obsessing over, but I also missed my friends. I found a sense of balance.
I highly recommend that if you get the opportunity this Lent, go on retreat or spend at least an hour in silence with God. You’ll be amazed at what you will find.
I’ve been going to retreats since my college days. I’m currently on staff for a young adult retreat that starts tomorrow. So, in honor of Bayou Awakening 24, I present to you a playlist of songs that basically describe what a retreat attendant basically goes through, or at least how I feel before, during, and after.
There are two kinds of retreaters, I think. The ones who can’t wait to go and the ones who are reluctant to go, but feel like they have to.
This is the song for those who can’t wait:
This is the song for those who are reluctant to go:
The morning of the retreat
The first day:
The various retreat activities:
Spending time in prayer:
Free time spent playing games or dancing:
Getting a retreat crush (you know it happens):
Opening yourself up to everyone:
That feeling you get after finding acceptance and forgiveness:
The last day of the retreat is both the best and the worst. It’s the best because they always save the best stuff for last. It’s the worst because you kind of feel like Peter during the Transfiguration, wanting to stay in that moment forever.
The moment you get that retreat high:
Wanting to volunteer for retreat staff:
Saying goodbye to your new friends:
After the retreat is over:
The first half of September was spent getting ready for the young adult retreat, Bayou Awakening. I was part of a more behind-the-scenes staff, but I also gave my first retreat talk. It’s hard to believe that in 2013, I went to Bayou as a retreat attendant and now I devote my time as a staff member.
Something I learned was that even before I even thought about going to Bayou, there were people praying for me. Some of my friends from college were part of the Bayou staff, but some of them were just praying for me as a future attendant and they never even met me. I paid it forward by praying for them and future retreaters myself.
I think the best thing I can say about Bayou Awakening is that I found a whole new set of friends. With my college friends moving across the country, getting jobs, or getting married, the most I ever talk to them is on Facebook. Although I don’t see my new set of friends every day, I can at least see them outside of the internet once a month at least. But more importantly, like my college friends, they keep me growing in my faith.
A few months later, I would find out just how amazing my friends can be. But that’s another story.