The room was cold, dark and damp. They had taken my watch so I had no idea what time of night it was. Sleeping wasn’t an option as I laid on the concrete floor. There were others, although we were forbidden to talk – the only conversations taking place were within our own minds.
I was in my early 30's with two small children and more debt than my paycheck could cover. While searching for a way out of the tomb I had created for myself, I was offered an invitation to attend a weekend retreat through a local church. The only details of the event were to bring a sleeping bag. At that point in my life I was hoping a retreat would somehow solve my problems – maybe someone else could figure out the answers for me. I felt more alone than I did alive.
The word retreat had enticed me and since it was church-based, I was hoping these strangers would have a miracle prayer that would fix me right up. Accommodations for the weekend were certainly not what I had expected, as we unloaded at an older church with sleeping bags in tow and our instructions were given.
Give up your watches, clocks and your voice - the rest of the evening will be spent in solitude and reflection.
The last thing I needed was to spend any time reflecting as I had already spent quality time having daily pity parties. There were 20 of us, lining the walls of a Sunday school class with our sleeping bags, tossing and turning, but certainly not sleeping. Most of the night I spent wishing I had never signed up for this so called “retreat,” and by the time morning rolled around the chip on my shoulder had turned into a rock. We were allowed to talk that next morning, so I was a little relieved.
I hadn’t expected to share my life story with anyone, much less people I didn’t know, but I spent the entire day trying to get these people to come to my pity party – but they had to bring their own box of Kleenex, as I wasn’t about to let go of mine. By the end of the second night it didn’t matter I was sleeping on concrete, I was exhausted from talking, crying and realizing, even though my story was different from the others, it was the same. The overwhelming feeling of being alone, while trying to deal with life’s issues, was the common denominator.
The last day of the retreat brought it all home. There are many cliché’s to explain my experience that weekend: born again, got religion, saved – I like to call it life. I came home with more than just a new attitude – as I learned miracles do happen if you have faith in the one person you cannot see, touch or hear.
I also learned just saying a prayer isn’t enough, I had to live by what I profess to believe and to know I'm never alone.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Wishing you a blessed Easter.
-- Sandy Turner lives in Independence. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org