A foundational element in Spiritual Growth, DISCERNMENT is simply the act of listening for God’s voice. Simple, however anything BUT easy. How do you discern His voice amid the other noise? His leading? A struggle I hear about in my work as a Spiritual Director, and an issue I’ve struggled with myself.
When I first began learning about Benedictine Spirituality, I was fascinated with the idea of “listening to God with the ear of your heart.” I wasn’t exactly sure how one could do this. My life was very chaotic, and most of the time I couldn’t hear myself think, let alone discern the voice of God.
My studies kept leading me back to solitude as a way to hear God. Solitude! What a terrifying thought for an extrovert. Be quiet? On purpose? Pure torture, I thought. But the more I tried to discern God’s voice, the more I knew I would need to give this solitude stuff a try.
I knew there was a Benedictine Abbey about 45 miles south of my home, and I the monks were quiet there, so I packed myself off for self-imposed, 24-hour, period of solitude. With the simple goal of trying to discern God’s voice. To listen with the “ear of my heart.”
It was awful. After the evening prayer service, I returned to my lonely room, and quickly fell asleep. In the morning, I struggled with my foolishness in taking on this venture alone. And I was sure that I must be needed at home, surely someone needed me at home. So, I made a deal with God. “I’ll stay and read one whole gospel, all the way through, then I’m going home.” I read Luke, had lunch, and went home.
About two years later, my Spiritual Director told me about silent retreat being held at a different Abbey. It hadn’t worked for me before, but at my Director’s urging, I decided to go.
What a difference it made having someone lead me through the process. The monk was so humble, he didn’t even introduce himself. He set a schedule for us and during the course of the weekend lead us through 5 different topics all around the idea of Community. He spoke for about 15 minutes on each topic and released us to silence and solitude, to discern God’s voice in relation to topic. I was silent for a whole weekend, and it was wonderful.
When I arrived home one of my children asked, “How was all that nice silence Mommy?” As I thought, it hadn’t been silent at all. Once I started listening, God never stopped talking.
That was all I needed, a little direction, tools to help me focus myself while I sought to discern God’s voice. This retreat was transformative for me, not the first time I’d heard God’s voice, but I learned tools to aide in the discernment. There are ways to do it, and tools that can help.
I want to offer those tools to you. Making a retreat is the single most effective way to discern God’s voice! I’ve been leading retreats for over 25 years. I’m putting together some resources that will allow you to take a retreat on your own schedule, in your own home. If you’re already on my email list, you’ll be getting more information this week.
If you aren’t on my list, sign up below to get the information, when it comes available.