Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Learning to take responsibility for expectations...

I started a response to Lucy’s comment below but it got a little long so I decided to use it as a post. Lucy’s question of expectations was one I asked of myself as I drove to Ashburnham. I’m not big on expectations but I came to the conclusion that for the two days away I was looking for solitude, space and time.

The problem with SA officers/clergy retreats is that they are generally for larger groups of people (there were 50 of us) and they tend to be pretty prescriptive in that they consist of some rousing singing, some reflective singing followed by a lot of one way conversation. I am happy to do that but it doesn’t feel like a retreat I need something a little more individual.

This year I went with a game plan. I avoided talk that drains me – I avoided conversation about putting TSA right, I tried to twist every conversation I had away from talk about our ministry. Also I went with my own agenda to take responsibility for my expectations. That meant this year ‘free time’ didn’t consist of crazy golf in Bexhill, but rather a walk around the lakes armed with a book of meditations based on the paintings by Sieger Köder. I sat and walked with the thoughts evoked by the poetry and words that accompanied graphic images.

I found myself challenged to learn to look at myself through the eyes of God; I found myself encouraged to look for God in the unexpected – which brought comfort for my growing disquiet for predictability. As I looked at the water I found myself pondering how Simon had to learn to sink before he became the rock.

Above all as I walked back to the house I learned that it is too easy to criticise what is on offer without taking responsibility for your expectations.

That was my space, time and solitude amoung copious singing and words!

7 comments:

Listeningear said...

Gordon,
glad you made the most of your time away. It is so easy to just sit back and grumble about what is dished out before us.

We actually have an Officer's Silent Retreat in two weeks time and we are approaching this with some hesitation as when we get together we do love to talk...

Glenda

Captain Andrew Clark said...

silent retreat...aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Andrew :)

Sister said...

I'm speechless - how can you have a retreat with rousing singing????? *head in hands* Only the Salvation Army could do this. OK I love my church but I despair.

I can also understand, though, the difficulty of getting a bunch of people who do the same job to do a silent retreat! lol

Silence and stillness can be intimidating - the first person you encounter in it is usually yourself - God's presence is both gentle and fierce in this regard. But as Henri Nouwen said, solitude is the source of the compassion needed as we try to love with the love of Christ. I hope you have a chance for more silence and stillness, the retreats mag. is packed with venues and opportunities.

Mitch said...

The last time I went on a silect retreat I ended up filling a beach full of rocks balanced one on top of each other... I'll send you a picture. :)

Gordon said...

We tried a silent half an hour on the tuesday morning. At prayers instead of words silence. Wasn't 5 minutes before the sympathetic background music was playing! I'm not sure how well we do silence in TSA - Glenda it'll be instresting to read your thoughts afterwards.

Maybe Mitch's filling a beach with pebble piles will bring inspiration!

Lucy said...

Thanks for responding to my question Gordon. I remember going on organised church retreats, and being so exhausted due to the endless activities and loads of people, I needed a holiday to recover lol but these days have taken matters into my own hands and incorporate the principles of retreat, silence, solitude reflection into my weekly rhythms, so I am not expecting so much from one weekend with a hundred other people. It works well this way for me.

Sister said...

I was challenged recently about incorporating times of silence in my Rule of Life. But I'm a Third Order Franciscan sister, still living at home with my two youngest and my grown up eldest. So it is not easy. But I decided to have a go, and now keep silence between 10pm and 8am daily, barring emergencies.
The children have adapted wonderfully, and know not to disturb me with words - though they frequently get up way before 8 and join me downstairs where I'm doing morning prayers. If I have to speak to them after 10pm they know they are in trouble! lol
Don't know if it will still work when they are teenagers but it is giving me a creative space to listen to God, and it doesnt intrude on family life.
Pax et bonum