“Be still, and know that I am God….” (Psalm 46:10)
“By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me….” (Psalm 42:8)
Hearing the Word. Hearing my life. Hearing God’s still small voice!
Much of life is an experience of living with cramped-ness. Many experiences whizz past us – the people we have met, the ministry we do, and the life that happens to us.
2017 was such a year for me… taking many flights to the movements in my region; giving numerous Bible expositions and sermons; listening to many people as they went through tough pilgrimages; 4 deaths – one of my own dear mom, another my campus room-mate & 2 colleagues in East Asia; taking on the role of IFES Regional Secretary, East Asia.
Cramped, unexamined lives begin to leak out impatience, weariness, anger, bitterness and self-pity. I could not stop any of these experiences of life and ministry. But for sanity’s sake, I found the still, small voice of my Lord calling me away… to solitude! I managed seven spiritual retreats in 2017 (some of which I both facilitated and participated in). Two of them were for 3 days; four of them were merely 3 hour retreats; one was for 4 days.
In the facilitated retreat, small portions of Scripture were given to chew on and listen to [Psalm 42; 1 Corinthians 4:7-16; Exodus 19:1-6; Joshua 3]. As I waited with these passages… the space I created in waiting with the Word began to speak to me. I was ‘hearing’ the Word watering my life. I began to also ‘hear’ my life – the grief I had accumulated, the questions that were arising. The greatest gift was ‘hearing’ God, who had been there through it all. He began to impress His promises and His healing in a new way.
After each of these ‘retreats’, I came back with a fresh mandate! A clearer calling of how to proceed. For me, these retreating times are not an option, but an oasis where I can drink deeply and make space for life. So, I know for myself, 2017 was a year of ‘hard knocks & tough schooling’, yet it was the year I am certain ‘he carried me on eagle’s wings & sang his song over me by night.’
So, how do I go away on my retreats?
- I bring the issues / concerns / experiences in my life that I want to examine.
- I ask the Lord to nudge me to a Scripture passage to hang out with.
- I pour out my heart, and wait & listen.
- I listen to His Word, His voice & listen to my life. I listen as I walk, or as I sit, listening to nature, images or words that He brings to my heart and mind.
- In listening, I respond from where I am. Conversations with God.
- All these go into my journal, which acts as my back-up listening tool!
Happy retreating, dear friend!
IFES Regional Secretary for East Asia