I just returned from my five days of silence for a personal retreat from the Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside. These five days consisted of one thing –
Be silent in the Lord’s presence.
I was uneasy heading into the retreat because I have not been able to deeply encounter the Lord well in silence. Naturally, the thought of five, full days of silence felt daunting. But with everything that has been on my plate this past year, I knew it was where God was inviting me. When I first arrived, I read a chapter on solitude from Henri Nouwen’s book, “The Way of the Heart.” Praise the Lord! His book completely shaped how I would enter into this time of solitude.
Henri says this about solitude:
“In order to understand the meaning of solitude, we must first unmask the ways in which the idea of solitude has been distorted by our world. We say to each other that we need some solitude in our lives. What we really are thinking of, however, is a time and a place for ourselves in which we are not bothered by other people, can think our own thoughts, express our own complaints, and do our own thing, whatever it may be… In short, we think of solitude as a place where we gather new strength to continue the ongoing competition in life… But that is not the solitude of St. John the Baptist… Rather, it [solitude] is the place of conversion, the place where the old self dies and the new self is born, the place where the emergence of the new man and the new woman occurs.”
Henri calls solitude, “The Furnace of Transformation”. He continues to write about how while we are in the silence, we are stripped naked, all the way down to our bare nothingness. We come face to face with our naked selves. We meet the person that lies within the depths of our nothingness – the same nothingness that we try so anxiously to run away from. It is within that nothingness that we try to fill ourselves with friends, entertainment, work, and hobbies – all things deemed trivial next to the Great and Holy God.
In this silence, we encounter our true selves and we have no where to run to. We are stuck dealing with the empty space that resides at our core – that space that God has been longing to fill.
I entered into my silent retreat with this notion at the forefront of my mind and asking the question: what will God reveal in our time of silence together? Amidst the silence, God brought out all of my skeletons: the fears I try to run away from, the anxiety I try to replace with working harder, the anger that seeks to blame or argue with others and the solitude that makes me want to run to other people for acceptance and belonging.
Initially, this experience was painful, shameful and difficult, but the Lord gave me perseverance. I asked the Lord to bring me into deeper understanding of these issues. Day by day, I would gain more depth and more insight on where my heart had become hardened and where I had succumbed to the enemy’s lies. Each day I became more bare, vulnerable and naked to the point where I found the most raw version of Nick –
It was then, when I had finally found the most raw version of Nick, that I was able to root myself in the truth:
The Nick that I encountered in the nothingness, the Nick that I’ve locked somewhere far, far away only to forget because I was embarrassed and ashamed of him, the Nick who had been rejected and hurt by the world and was told to suck it up, the Nick that lived in fear everyday of people’s expectations of him or not being liked…
… that very Nick is God’s beloved child.
It was like glass shattering, chains breaking free, barricaded doors flying open!
Nick is God’s beloved child.
Once I experienced this truth, I gained more authority. I gained more power in the Spirit. I was given a knew identity. The true, healing work could now come! I am God’s beloved child. I can take greater risks and fail knowing that God’s love is unconditionally. I am Abba’s Child! There is no condemnation, for those who are in love of the author and perfecter of life! I am given love, perfect love, so I can walk humbly by the Spirit and love others free of judgment, full of tenderness and compassion.
All in all, the silence IS the furnace of transformation and I hunger and long to hear and be with the Lord in the silence. Silence is no longer a place marked with fear and anxiety, but a place where I can experience conversion and transformation of my old self into the the new self that God continues to fortify and build. Woo! Praise the Lord for his goodness!
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Thank you for your prayers for me and Natalia during this crazy Kwok of a summer. I’m so pumped for the new Fall Quarter and to see God continue building the Greek IV at UCLA!