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Jen Scheuermann shares what she learned in the silence on two separate retreats.

It was an accident

In August of 2019, I went on my first retreat—a retreat I somehow paid for, drove to, and checked in for without ever realizing it was a silent retreat. Discovering this unexpected detail left me a little excited … and a lot nervous! And I’m pretty sure God, well aware of what He had in store for me that weekend, simply looked down at me and smiled. That retreat changed my life as I encountered Jesus in a new and profound way, a way I’d not realized was even possible. And by His Grace alone, I will never be the same again.

Go empty

Two years later I once again registered for a silent retreat—this time with intention. When I clicked that “submit” button on the registration form I didn't know the retreat would take place during a very stressful season of my life. But God absolutely did.

As the retreat approached I was filled with a mix of emotions. I couldn’t wait for it to begin, as I longed for a reprieve from my daily stress. Yet I felt guilty leaving others during a stressful period. And, oddly, I felt a bit of anxiety, concerned that despite my efforts to avoid it, I would find myself comparing this retreat to my first one. After all, one can only have their first real encounter with Jesus one time. Would I somehow feel let down if this retreat didn’t provide the same sort of life-changing experience as the first? Yes, comparison is the thief of joy … and the enemy knows exactly what traps to throw in my path.

Fortunately I voiced my concerns to a spiritual director, and she gave me much-needed advice: Go empty.

In other words, lay down my expectations for the retreat. Lay down my hopes for what might happen. Lay down my plans for what I wanted to “accomplish.” Place it all at His feet, and open my heart to receive whatever He had in store for that weekend. So that’s exactly what I did.

Well, sort of.

Because my innate desire for control seems to be the hill on which I am intent to die. And it’s the very piece of me He calls to die each and every day.

So I tried to go empty. And I thought I was—even as I placed my Bible, a journal, a devotional, a spiritual book, a coloring book, and my colored pencils into my bag. Retelling this story it’s obvious: I need help!! And that’s exactly what He gave me, as I arrived at the retreat to discover I’d forgotten one of my bags. The only items with me were my clothes and my Bible.

Feel free to laugh at my expense. I am.




It’s personal

This retreat was an entirely different experience from the first, but just as impactful. It revealed how incredibly personal God’s love for me is, and that this is very different from simply knowing I am loved by Him in a general sort of way. It also birthed in me the desire to make a retreat a yearly tradition.

Now in case you’ve never before been on a silent retreat, let me elaborate. Both of these retreats were what is sometimes called a Preached Silent Retreat. A facilitator periodically gives a presentation on a topic, and in between the presentations you’re given time on your own to reflect, pray, rest, read, walk around the property, and so on. So words are spoken during these retreats; they just aren’t spoken by those in attendance. Participants remain in silence the entire time—and it is this silence that allows one to better hear God’s Voice.

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When we pause, and with honest intention seek out God, He will respond. #CatholicMom

My two retreat experiences were very different, but equal with regards to how deeply they have impacted me. I am learning that when we pause, and with honest intention seek out God, He will respond. The way He meets us, what He reveals to us, and how exactly He loves us in those very moments may be very different—and it may look nothing at all as we expect—but He will meet us.



Copyright 2023 Jennifer Scheuermann
Images: Canva