Guest author: Liz Budd Ellmann, MDiv
A red door stands naked in a field. Is it art, I asked myself, driving down a country road on the way to my annual silent retreat. Not likely. What happened to the home around it and the people who lived there, I wondered.
Catching the red door in my rearview mirror, my thoughts shifted away from worrying about the people who once lived in the vanished home. I was drawn to something bigger. Standing upright, hinged to nothing but a door frame, the red door invited a new perspective on the meadow and forest beyond the door. I had to get closer.
Walking out to the red door, I smiled in gratitude: the whole scene was sent by God as an affirmation and a reminder of the value of contemplative retreats. Given the demands of work, aging parents, marriage, and community responsibilities, it was difficult to make a retreat this year. The whole scene seemed to be asking: would I have the courage to walk through the door of solitude and rest in the beauty of the trees and meadow?
Nurturing the soul by walking through the door of solitude takes initiative and courage. The choice is always ours. For months, my spiritual director kept gently asking, “What’s preventing you from giving yourself permission to ‘waste some time with God’ in silence, on retreat?” Finally, I allowed myself to return to a familiar hermitage on Whidbey Island, near Seattle, Washington, USA.
Douglas fir trees showed me again how to be still, how to look up and around—beyond the day-to-day worries and woes—allowing everything to arrive as it will. By the end of the week of walking, contemplating, sleeping, praying, eating healthy food, and meditating, I felt refreshed and more in tune with God’s ever present goodness and guidance.
When were you last on retreat? Are you spending enough time in silence?
Somewhere, a red door waits for you. Tend to your soul by making a retreat. Encourage the people you companion to make a retreat. Dream a little—where would you go? Retreat possibilities are numerous—including everyday life retreats, silent retreats, online retreats, and group retreats. If you need ideas about where to make a retreat, check out the listings in the back of Presence journal, look in Connections e-newsletter, or review the global resources in Listen. Consider the contemplative retreat following the April 2013 Spiritual Directors International conference in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, to integrate your experience. Or go online to the Resources section of the Spiritual Directors International website for a searchable world map of retreat centers with spiritual direction. You will find opportunities all over the world to come home to your soul.
Share your retreat stories in the comments section below.