During this past weekend, I went a hermitage. What is a hermitage? I’m so glad you asked.
It a time away from people to be with God alone. The one I went to was a silent one with no talking. The idea is that in the silence and solitude, there is more opportunity to really commune with God. To really spend time with him. Far from the distractions of a busy digital world full of attention getters, this is a time of peace.
The particular hermitage I went to is Pacem in Terris (which means Peace on Earth) in St. Francis, MN. It is a retreat back in the woods. There are 16 isolated cabins with no electricity but they are heated and there are good toilet facilities. The purpose is to be alone with God.
I must say the Catholics know how to do this right. The staff at Pacem do an excellent job of emphasizing relationship with God above simple religious activity. It is the recognition that God is not nearly as interested in our work as he is in winning our hearts.
My own journey there was strange. Sam (my wife) has been going to Pacem for a few years and is refreshed every time with a weekend away with God. About two months ago, I felt like I was supposed to go on a hermitage, but I didn’t know why.
This is rather disconcerting. It’s like when your boss arranges a meeting and you don’t know why they set it up. What is it, exactly, that God wants from me? Could he be ready to ask me to do something painful. Something really grueling.
Such were the thoughts flowing through my head. When I arrived and the staff asked what they could pray for me, I told them, “Please pray that God will show me what I need to do and that I will have the courage to do it.” The staff member closed the door and I was alone with God for two and a half days.
It felt a little ominous. I settled in and read a little from the book of Hosea.
“OK, God. I’m here. What do you want me to do?”
Only the silence responded.
I took that to mean that I should go to bed. I slept more than twelve hours that night and I probably would have slept longer if the sun didn’t rise shining in my window. I woke up much more refreshed. After a delicious breakfast of cheese and bread. I read some more and received my first lesson from God.
It is not my responsibility to pressure or manipulate God into showing me his will. Don’t treat God like he is holding out on secret information that he will only give if I force him to. Instead, trust that God loves me and he will show me what I need to know.
This was a relief. I had the silly notion that God was holding out on me, that I was eager to hear what he had to say and that he was reluctant to meet with me. Needless to say. This took the pressure off.
I finished Hosea and moved on to the Psalms. Some time in the Psalms, the second lesson came to me.
This is a date, not a job interview. Don’t treat God like an irritable boss, but like a lover who wants to spend time with me.
This was one of the messages buried in Hosea. God was very angry at how the Israelites had treated him, yet he frequently talks of how much he loves them and wants to love them like a good husband. What I was doing was showing up to a dinner with God. He lights a candle and sets the room into a romantic setting, and I pulled out a list of demands. Not very romantic.
This was surprisingly peaceful. Once I allowed him to set the mood for dinner, it was much nicer to spend time with him.
I spent the rest of the day Saturday resting with God and also wandering around the property at Pacem. I read a lot, but nothing else jumped out at me. I slept a great deal Saturday night as well and woke up Sunday morning with a fairly clear conviction with the third lesson.
I have an idolatry problem with food. I feel entitled to it and I bring food under the direction of God. There is a great deal of enjoyment of food to be had once, by God’s grace, it is pulled into its proper place in my life.
I applied this by setting a date, January 14th, that I will have a clear plan for how I will address my idolatry problem with food. You can bet there will be more blog posts about this.
I went to Mass on Sunday morning and enjoyed seeing how the Catholics there did church. It was familiar in many ways and odd in others. The services if quite ordered. I was able to participate in everything they did except their communion as I am not a member of the Catholic Church. The whole congregation was very inviting and kind to me as an outsider joining their service.
The days went on and I went back to my cabin. It was very cold that day so I stayed in the cabin for the rest of the day. It was then that the final lesson of the day came.
I will start a small group at Bethlehem.
I had been planning to do this anyway, but I had questioned whether I should over the last months. This was confirmation that I should go ahead and start the small group. Sam is on board with this and I just needed my last jitters to be worked out.
I then returned home on Monday morning. It was good for my soul. I would recommend that if you read this and thought that it sounded nice, please consider going on a hermitage. Don’t go out of a sense of obligation. Go because it is delightful to be on a date with God. This is Heaven practice. Jesus is dating the Church now. He is going to marry us in Heaven.
For those who are wondering, I am planning to resume the Count Vicegrim Letters next week. One of the final takeaways from my hermitage was that I have run out of porn related material for the blog and it is time to expand it to other things I am learning. There will be an upcoming post with these plans.