As I mentioned, I was on retreat for a few days this past week. Usually that means a few days of peace and quiet in a pine forest setting, in what my spiritual director calls a “rustic” cabin. (It’s got electricity, running water, a shower, and a flush toilet; how “rustic” is that?!?)
This time, one could not describe the scene as quiet. By virtue of a government grant, a crew of fire prevention workers was diligently cutting down trees, bucking them into firewood size pieces, and then chipping the remaining debris. Buzzing, roaring, whirring noise throughout the day…
It was a little distracting, but at the same time, it didn’t bother me much. Don’t ask me why; I am pretty sensitive to noise!
Another “distraction” during this retreat was the sudden, unannounced appearance of a man seeking solace and counseling from the priest. This sort of thing doesn’t usually happen when I’m there; I’m usually alone, and any visitors have made prior arrangements, and I am informed ahead of time. In addition, this man was in such a state of turmoil that it was practically palpable.
Two evenings in a row he showed up right about Vespers time. The second evening, I was alone in the main building when he arrived. As I talked with him, he exhibited some rather odd stress-related behaviors (intense stuttering, for instance), and I wondered briefly about my own safety!
I knew, however, that reinforcements (the priest) would arrive shortly, so I did my best to abandon myself to the moment and the task at hand, and simply tried to listen and respond appropriately to the man, hoping I could be of some help to him. (I do have some experience with this, having done some work with troubled men and women in a drug and alcohol rehab program run by the Pentecostal church I was attending at that time.)
At any rate, the retreat seemed to be God simply showing me that He is, after all, in control, and that if I abandon myself to His Divine Providence, a noisy retreat can be as fruitful as a quiet one. I’m a little surprised that I didn’t resist more, but…by God’s grace, I didn’t. I accepted it as it came. I was left with a sense of having rested in God’s will – even though that “rest” was peppered with exterior noises!
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.
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