Are you aware of an internal clock that rings in your life from time to time? Is there an alarm that informs you that it’s time to go somewhere or do something? Robert Benson has one and it tells him it is time to go on retreat to pray. It goes off every 21 weeks or so. He became aware of the clock one summer while on a retreat when he heard God speak to him in prayer. As he struggled through questions about his life, the voice said to him; "You promised to follow me wherever I might take you, and this is where we go next. You are here because the road leads here." The road lead him to silence and solitude.
Benson reflects on the life that most of us share. It is a life of hustle and bustle, a life plagued by a competitive motif that goads us further away from ourselves and who we are. We find ourselves running back and forth wondering why life is fleeting and never quite tasting the invisible carrot of contentment that is dangled between us and the golden calf of materialism. There is also the noise that bombards our minds and muffles the still small voice that whispers peace and truth to us. It is the world we live in. It is a world that promises to give so much, but in reality takes from us and diminishes us to something less than human. It is in the midst of this life that Benson hears the clock go off to send him on retreat.
What’s the point of getting away? Benson reflects that he needs time to listen, to examine, and to confess. It’s a time of reorientation for him that brings him back down to earth and grounds him in the direction of God’s voice that is so hard to discern in the midst of the frenetic pace of life. "How is one to hear the Voice if one cannot even hear oneself think?", asks Benson. He goes on to say:
"The Silence that I seek cannot merely be the absence of the numbing noise and debilitating detail of life in our society. It must be something more. It must be a solitude that is transcendent, a stillness that can be found in the midst of the noise, a silence that is portable."
There are a number of positive things that can happen when we make the time to be away in silence and prayer. Benson points to the joy of learning about himself, the life he is called to and the way God speaks to him. The vantage point of stepping back and traversing the latest epoch of time in our lives is invaluable as it can offer us many answers to how we have felt, processed situations, and it helps us discern the way God has walked alongside of us during that time. It also helps understand where we go next.
So where does the road lead for you? Does the compulsion to continue on full speed ahead override the subtle nudge to get away and pray? Or do you answer the bell of the little clock inside that is telling you it’s time to be away for a while where nothing matters more than union with God in prayer?