I have participated in Equipper Conference three times before. So about three months ago when I received a retreat invitation from JCFN, I assumed it’s going to be wonderful and decided to register for it, even before knowing what exactly C-WIT was about. It was also convenient for me that the venue this time will be in Northern California, where I could commute from my house. But I found out in the last part of registration that the venue was in fact the church I attend every week. I was a little bit disappointed by this, because it just made it seem like a part of my regular routine, rather than out of the ordinary. But then again, if I changed the way I look at it, it’s easier for me to ask my family to hold down the fort at home, when I’m going to a place only 10 minutes away by car. So I came to attend C-WIT with a positive expectation.
When I arrived at the venue, I saw fabulous faces from JCFN like Setsu, Yuko, and Sachi Nakamura at the church we always go to, and that alone made it feel very special and I was buoyant.
However as I listened to the instruction, I found out that it was a silent retreat. Even during lunch, we were to eat alone in silence without chatting with anybody else. After that, we were supposed to spend a couple of hours in the afternoon to quieten our hearts in silence. I was taken aback by all this, because it was completely different from my expectations of passionate worship, prayer, and fellowship like I experienced in the Equipper Conference.
The morning session by Sachi started as I was still feeling somewhat disconcerted. During her talk, Sachi said: “You each probably have expectations you brought to this retreat. But please set that aside for now. God is already pleased by the fact that you offered the whole day and came together here.” This touched me deeply, because I have 9 and 4 years old sons and normally Saturdays are very busy with different activities and other house chores. It would have been very difficult to spend the whole day at this retreat without the help of my husband. Still I felt bad to say that I made a significant effort to make time to participate, when other participants came on an airplane or drove over an hour to get here. I also felt a bit guilty to have just shown up and didn’t help for set-up even though I was a member of the church where the venue was.
Despite all that, as I was pondering quietly after Sachi’s talk, I felt God was gazing through even the petty guilt I was feeling.
At the same time, I realized I constantly had a switch turned on in my head that said “I have to do something”, and never had time time to be still. I have a preschool age child at home, and we are spending time together just about all the time; caring for children, doing house chores, occasionally listening to my husband (lol)… It was evident that my mind was never at rest and I was exhausted.
Therefore the lunch in silence turned out to a bliss during which nobody interrupted my time. The church’s social hall where it’s normally filled with people was filled with silence. It was magical. I was able to actually savor the flavors in delicious salad. I didn’t have to worry about people around, and didn’t even think about fun topics of conversation. I was just looking at a beautiful view outside and consider the wonder of God who created all of it. Then I felt enormous joy bubbling out of my heart. Until now, my conversation with God was a one-sided projection of my worries and pleas such as for my need to have alone time, my family’s health, my future vision and wish for solutions for all these issues. But since I have arrived at this retreat and let go of these issues for the time being to bring my little self before God, the view I’ve always seen and even the taste of a meal were transformed.
After lunch we were taken to a nearby rose garden. We each went separate ways there and spent our time on our own: Beautiful roses, their sweet fragrance, blue California sky, people in a wedding, a small baby toddling… All these seemed like a sight full of hope and brought joy to my heart again.
I was so glad I could attend C-WIT this time. My biggest take-away was that even after returning to my busy life, I have learned to stop time to time to take a deep breath and be still, and be reminded of beautiful things around me that God has created, and also that I’m loved by the same God and being sustained by Him.