God moved heaven and earth to get me into this wait-listed, 10-day silent retreat. It had taken me eleven years to arrive. Why do I have to have a lingering cough from a cold that began over a week ago when I am sharing a room with a roommate who needs to sleep, and I must be quiet during prayer? Why? After waiting all those years to get here, why would I be banished like this?
I returned to my silent room and sat down in the most comfortable chair you can imagine and began my private session—no one could hear my coughs. I did okay but mainly I discovered that the God of all comforts had something to show me through this seeming disaster. It’s not so bad to pray in your room overlooking the beautiful lush green Rockies with snow tipped peaks (this was before the 3-5 inches of snow that began that afternoon). I wiped my tears and enjoyed my setting.
Things were looking better as I got back on track with the schedule and walked down to the morning church service. I spent time in the Guest chapel before the service asking God to help me not cough. It was a miracle; I did not cough, but I did cry. I cried a lot. I cried and cried and I don’t cry. I’m not a crier so I didn’t expect to cry, but I do know I need to cry so I didn’t stop the tears. But I connected to what the tears were about as the service began. The monks in their white church robes triggered a painful reality about my son who was on the journey of wondering if he should be a monk when his life took a detour to wearing a white prison uniform. I needed to talk about this. There are retreat leaders here. There are people to talk to. I’ve been invited to talk, but I need to talk to a monk. It is monk business that is making me cry, at least that is what I think. So I write a note and don’t expect an immediate response; yet I am told to go down to the bookstore at 2:00 o'clock and talk to a monk.
Fr. Charles is sent and I spill out my story, and I show him a picture of Ben and me taken just the Sunday before. He looks at it and listens; I cry some more. When I finish my rambling, he tells me, you know this is about you, right. You are crying for you. You have been through a lot and you need to cry. Of course, I have a lot going on; and he doesn’t even know the half of it! I think my tears are telling me that. But, no, I don’t automatically think my tears are about me. I think they are about how I am failing my son somehow, that I wasn’t enough to keep him on track, that there was something else I could do. I mean I don’t say that to people. I don’t live that out every day…but when I come to a place like this, and strip away all my normal distractions, that is exactly what I think. I think I’m crying because my son needs something more from me! Something I should have been able to give him if I were just a better mother. There’s some way I can make up for that if I can just figure out what. I can help him. He needs my help.
Well, he does indeed need my help so says Father Charles. He told me that what Ben needs most of me is to take care of myself and be one with God. That is how I can heal Ben best—heal me. I hear him. I really do. And as he talks, I know that is true not only for Ben but also for Rachel, Nate and Lila. It’s true for Paul and for my ministry. What the people in my life need most is not more of what I can do but more of God in me (and in all the other places He is in their lives). It's what Irvin Yalom calls the “healing presence.” I know that is what has happened through the years as I have counseled others. It’s not my training or my brilliance, rather it is God’s healing presence in me that directs people’s souls to a new way of connect to Him that results in their healing. It’s not whether I do a certain thing, but it is for me to connect more deeply to how God is in me so that God can connect more deeply to all the people in my world.
Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”