St Beuno’s 3: Waiting on God

With apologies that it’s taken me sometime to blog about my time at St Beuno’s, this is the first of two blogs about my time on retreat. There were two parts to my time, the first being a few days of retreat on my own and the second the Easter Retreat which St Beuno’s offers each year.

My summary of the first part is the title of this blog, Waiting on God. I’d spent some time the day before I went on retreat with my Spiritual Director thinking about what I wanted to use the retreat time for. We agreed that it was a time to reflect on what my faith meant to me and to wait on God to see what God wanted to say to me at this point on my journey of faith.

As someone who is naturally active, likes to do, to read, to talk going to a place of silence, peace and stillness was always going to be a challenge but one I was looking forward to. It is of course easy to fall into believing that everyone else around you has sorted how to be silent, to hear God and retreat well! I was greatly helped by Tony Horsfell’s book Rhythms of Grace which I recommend to anyone who finds quiet and stopping a challenge.

The book speaks of the importance of stillness, silence and solitude. During the few days I had to myself I sought to embrace these through scripture, prayer, reading, walking and sitting in God’s presence. Sometimes this was a real blessing and sometimes it was really frustrating as I found stilling myself in order to find the silence or solitude difficult. By opening myself up to God in this very different environment and through the stillness, silence and solitude I was able to wait on God, to watch for how he wanted to speak to me and to simply be in his presence.

To wait,
To sit,
To sink,
in the presence of God.

To see,
To watch,
To know,
God in my midst.

To look,
To wonder,
To receive,
the all embracing love of God.

One of ways I waited on God was to spend time reflecting on Ghislaine Howard’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son which is in the side Chapel at St Beuno’s. I was really struck by the way the father holds the son and the way the father sinks into the son to makes sure he knows the father is there. After this time of reflection I wrote the poem opposite which expresses what I was doing in this time of waiting on God.

One of the most profound moments for me was when I walked to the Rock Chapel, a chapel built on top of a rock about 30 minutes walk from St Beuno’s. I’d spent some time praying for myself and for others and taken some beautiful pictures which really caught the beauty of the stained glass windows. Before I left I sat for a while in silence, seeking to focus on God and know his presence. It was one of the moments when I was struggling to focus as lots of thoughts kept entering my mind. As I sat and tried not to get frustrated, that I couldn’t be still, I noticed that the cross in the chapel started to move from side to side, slowly as though it was waving at me. In that moment I knew God’s presence, it was as though God was saying I’m here, I’m waving at you, you know I’m here and that’s all you need, if you know I am here you can walk with me.

Alongside this very profound moment as I look back in my journal I recorded a number of ways in which God was present, in the beauty of creation (see my pictures on this blog post), in the bird song which was almost constant and like nothing I’ve ever heard before, in the silent warmth and fellowship of others on retreat, in the worship offered each day.

By waiting on God during this time I was able to notice so many ways that God’s presence is revealed in the normal rhythm of life as much as in the stillness, silence and solitude – yet I only noticed them because I took time in the stillness to watch and see. It was another challenge to lift my eyes and look for God.

So many of the ways I saw God at work when I was at St Beuno’s was in active ways such as the birds singing, a theme which is recurring on my sabbatical (see this blog post) and which I am thinking about more and more.

So in summary, it was a wonderful few days of peace, waiting and watching for God in which God reminded me of his presence. By reflecting on God’s constant presence I was enabled to hear God, to know his presence more and be affirmed in my faith.