“A five full days silent retreat”, this was what Sister Fran emphasized to us. She is the leader fronting this program of Life Direction Singapore. We checked in at 4pm a day earlier on Monday to settle in and began our first session at 8pm. After that session, grand silence began and continued till the wrap-up session on Sunday morning at 10.30am, following which, the silence ended. It was an individually directed retreat, as each retreatant had a spiritual director whom they met with for about thirty to forty-five minutes each day.
As a friend
During the opening session, we were asked to write the grace or blessing we wanted to receive from the Lord during the retreat. I wrote that I wanted “friendship with Jesus”. I wanted to spend the week like a vacation with Jesus as my friend. I recalled the verse in Exodus 33:11, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend”. I longed to keep company with the Lord.
In my first session with my spiritual director, Soo Hoong, a ministry staff from Paya Lebar Methodist Church, I shared with her the grace I asked for: friendship with God. She asked me to think of this retreat as being with a friend for a week. I could discuss with the Lord what we could do together, or vice versa. I could also share what is on my heart or ask the Lord what was on his heart, like, “How do you see me?” In the sessions that followed she would prompt me with other suggestions of how this divine friendship could be nurtured and find expression during the retreat.
I asked the Lord a few times, “How do you see me?” The answer was to come two days later through an image that came to me of an infant child. Straight away I was reminded of a Psalm that I meditated upon years ago about a weaned child. I searched and found Psalm 131: 2: “Instead I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child, who no longer cries for its mothers milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me”. It dawned on me that my faith used to be immature, like a baby demanding, upset and controlling, wanting my needs and expectations met my way and in my time. Otherwise, I would cry in anxiety and turmoil. My faith has since become a calm and quiet trust in God during troubles and trials, matured and willing to wait patiently for God. I was pleased that that was how the Lord viewed me. Any mother would tell you how relieved and pleased they would feel when a child has moved on from mother’s milk on demand, to being totally weaned to a calm and quiet patience. I was happy that He was pleased with my growth.
During the retreat, I seem to be gifted with a garment of praise. My heart was bubbling with joy and I was praising God often. I often sang worship choruses, hummed a melody or sang in tongues. I did it in my room, while walking the labyrinth or the rail corridor. It was a relaxed, praise-filled, and joyful retreat.
Using the labyrinth
There are two labyrinths at Montfort Centre and they can be used in different ways. I walked the labyrinth before breakfast, or at sunset or at night, because these were the times it was not hot. I sometimes walked the labyrinth to converse or discuss a matter with the Lord, as I would with a friend on a hike. Other times, I walked it to express praise and adoration, and to sing in the Spirit, or to hum a hymn. Significantly, I once used the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me” and had a touch from the Lord, a grace moment, when I felt contrition and confessed my pride, and acknowledged that I am but a graced person, who earned nothing, did not deserve anything, but that all had been given to me, all is gift.
One beautiful day with fair weather, I walked the rail corridor from Railway Mall to the newly done-up Bukit Timah Railway Station. It was a pleasant saunter with the Lord, taking in the sights and taking the occasional photograph. When I reached the Station, I simply sat and rested for a while, looking around at people taking photographs in empty carriages along old railway tracks preserved for ours and later generations to appreciate our history with Malaysia. There was a lovely café, but I was not prepared to pay $5.50 for a cappuccino. I did not walk back but took the train back from King Albert Park MRT station to Cashew.
Paint your feelings
The organizers had art materials available for any retreatant to use. Though not trained in art, I felt the urge to take some water colour paint and brushes to express my heart and I noticed that the colours and images I painted expressed my feelings appropriately. They were bright colours, intimate and celebratory images, and point to the joy, intimacy and gratitude I felt. They kind of summed up this retreat for me. Though it was part of the “course requirement”, it was very much a formational experience for me.
If you are interested to know why silence is important in prayer, click HERE.