Just before my 8-Day retreat, a good, wise and faith-filled friend emailed me some pre-retreat advice.
Sit quietly with the Lord. Allow any and all defects to rise, let Him identify them, don’t go digging around. Receive each wound, pain, defect and in your imagination bring them to the open side of Christ. Offer them to Him for healing, not relief but healing.
That last phrase both startled me and frightened me. ‘No,’ I thought. ‘I want relief! I want a break from pain, a quick-fix from struggle; but not major surgery.’
However, the truth was that the soul of the Lord’s ‘living word’ to me during the retreat was precisely that message: not relief, but redemption. Not a quick-fix, but a long term solution. To stop dousing your wounds with fleeting pain-killers and allow them to remain open before God in un-busied silence, receptive stillness, consenting trust.
During those days healing came to mean allowing God to rectify the inner wreckage, to bring gently to light the truth beneath my dis-ease. Christ invited me to freely cooperate with His grace by changing my distorted thinking in specific areas, and so uprooting those old, dead-end habits that flow from that thinking — habits that have always merely served to skirt the real issues at hand.
In particular, God made me aware of the role that the ubiquitous cultural malaise of compulsive busyness and ceaseless noise play in preventing me from going deeper, in keeping me from permitting God to go deeper into my heart and mind. As I mentioned the other day, being stripped for 8 days of busyness and noise (especially technology-noise) renders you remarkably defenseless before God.
How clear it became to me that when you consecrate significant and consistent time to Him in disposed silent prayer, a purifying, transforming and wholly Kindly fire grows within. And I came to see so very clearly, as Chesterton did, that the real solution to all the problematic people around me is my own salvation. St. Seraphim of Sarov’s seemingly naïve phrase became vividly real for me: ‘Be at peace yourself, and thousands around you will be saved.’
Noise and busyness that crowd out inner silence are a fleeting doses of anesthesia, while daily silence and stillness in prayer before the ‘open side of Christ’ are a tacit consent for the Divine Physician to do heart and brain surgery. Frightening and startling, until you finally surrender to and trust those skilled Hands that do no harm, but labor to heal and restore the luster and beauty of the divine image stamped deep within us.
Make space daily for prayerful stillness before Christ, and don’t count its success by measures of psychological performance, but by the power of your daily choice to simply stop and surrender in those set-aside moments to the ineffable healing grace of God.
And if you object that your many children, jobs, responsibilities preclude you from indulging in the luxury of lengthy quiet time for God, think of the advice I once heard given by a wise monk to a busy Mom of Many: ‘If all you can spare each day for God is five minutes of prayerful silence locked in the cell of your bathroom, be faithful to that daily five minutes and God will deem it as great a gift as the five hours offered by the contemplative nun.’