Recently, I took a brief retreat. My goal was to quiet my spirit and prepare for a busy season ahead. Instead, I found near constant distractions. First, I had trouble unplugging from the office. A few emails seemed to demand my attention. Then, a text or call would require a response. Second, I had forgotten a family event when I planned my time away. This omission led me back home for an evening.
Finally, I was ready to begin my retreat. But, how could I do it? How could I settle my soul and listen to God’s voice?
Remain Silent for 5 Minutes
Turn off the news. Shut down the computer. Pause the Spotify playlist. Get away from noisy distractions. Set a timer. I used the timer on my phone but turned the phone to airplane mode to ensure no notifications would eek through.
The silence gives me a chance to process what has been happening. It reminds of the beginning of Luke when it references “the things that have taken place among us” (1.1). I remember when I was a teenager thinking, “What were all the things?” As an adult, five minutes of silence fly by as I think about all of the things going on in my life.
If the time goes too quickly, I repeat it. Another five minutes of silence can help me think through what is happening and clear my head a little bit.
Being outside is an important part of settling one’s soul. Whether going outside means a city street or a wooded path, being outside connects us to something that is beyond the self. For me, I feel empathy when I see people on a city street. Or, when I am on a trail, I see the natural world.
Walking is another important part of settling one’s soul. Movement burns calories, relieves stress, and gives me something to think about other than whatever is keeping me from settling. It creates space between me and everything else. Even if I take my phone, I can leave it on airplane mode or turn it to silent and continue the act of settling.
Walking outside builds on the silence.
After a walk, I read. Each person is different and so the reading selected should reflect the one who is reading.
As I tried to quiet my spirit, I picked up a book by Frederick Buechner. After just a few pages, I was thinking about his reflection on the “face we show others.” It made me think about myself, my ministry, and the way I encounter other people. It also dragged my attention away from the things that were keeping me unsettled.
Ask God for guidance. Tell God what keeps you unsettled. Confess your sins. Ask for forgiveness. Read 1 John 1.9, “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Read it again.
As part of my prayers, I write out what I would say to God if Jesus were sitting next to me. These written prayers can serve as later reminders of a continuing faith journey.
If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.Dietrich Bonhoeffer
There are more ways to settle my soul. As I continue on this path, I will share them when I find them.