A few weeks ago, for a few quiet minutes, I sat around a table with a group of women who were considering attending an upcoming retreat. There were 12 of us—women of all ages and stages—trying to decide. Every one of us in that group said some version of: It’s two days. Who has that kind of time? As we remembered our realities, we got all frantic and distracted, each woman sharing long lists of commitments, demands, and struggles—all important, all legitimate. It was overwhelming, really. And for those of us living in the dream of “one day,” it was especially disheartening to again recognize that even retired empty nesters were busy, busy, busy.
So, really, who has that kind of time?
And then one woman gently spoke: “I wonder: What would it take for us to slow down?”
We were silent for a few minutes. Then, one by one, women shared what had slowed them, at least temporarily, in the past: death, cancer, depression, divorce, a major surgery, a serious illness, a child or grandchild in crisis. Sometimes, if only for a short season, it seems catastrophe can command all of our focus and clear our calendars. In catastrophe, it seems, we give ourselves permission to be human, to need, to ask for help, to lean into God.
And then one woman confessed, courageously asking: “Hey, is anyone else still struggling to surrender and listen?” Sighs. Silence. More sighs and silence. You see, we’re all part of a church initiative that is inviting us to surrender to God, to listen for God’s voice, and then to obey what He says to do. In smaller groups and all together, we’ve talked about the challenges of slowing, surrendering, and listening for longer than it seems it should take us to learn. We’re all activators, drivers, women who get things done. And we’re all recognizing that it’s hard to get to that last part—obeying—if we haven’t first done the hard, hard work of surrendering and listening. Surrendering? Listening? Neither happens in an instant—or according to our schedule, my schedule. It’s been the battle of my lifetime. I want to be still. I want to know (and live out!) that He is God and I am not. And, really, who has that kind of time?
Fast forward. It’s Saturday, 2/18, at 9 a.m. It’s an unexpectedly beautiful day—do you remember it? Sunny, bright blue and cloudless sky, unseasonably warm. I am with 5 other people on “The Land.” Our 24 Hours of Prayer event is beginning. We pray the familiar words: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” Tears come to my eyes and stream down my face. I know this! I know this! Why don’t I always live this?
It can’t be His kingdom and my kingdom at the same time. It can’t be His way and my way at the same time. It can’t be surrender and control at the same time. I can’t be still and busy at the same time. I can’t listen and talk at the same time. I can’t follow and lead at the same time. I can’t please people and God at the same time. His kingdom come. His will be done.
This Sunday, we’ll have the epic (and pretend) battle of Katter vs. Carter on our Huntley stage. No offense to either contender, but this battle’s outcome doesn’t really matter in the short or long run. It will be fun and funny. You won’t want to miss it. But it’s not real. But who wins the battle for my time, my heart, my everything? That’s real, and that really does matter—to me, to my relationships, to His kingdom here on earth and there in Heaven. It matters for you and yours, too.
We prayed for 24 hours. Hour by hour, we moved to different locations and prayed for different people, different needs, different church ministries and community organizations. We prayed by sunlight and candlelight. We prayed in fields, cars, parking lots, restaurants, gazebos, and homes. We prayed written prayers. We prayed liturgies and songs. We prayed from our hearts. There were 49 participants in all. Some came for one hour. Some came for 2 or 3 or 5. I was present for 21 out of the 24 hours. And I’m not proud to say this, but it is true. That question: What would it take for us to slow down? It took me about 11 hours. (Really! It doesn’t always take me that long, but the busier I get the more resistant I get.) I don’t know about you, but I can be still in body but not at all still in my mind and in my heart. 11 hours or so into praying, I was still and surrendered and listening. And, wouldn’t you know it, God spoke.
What does it take for you to slow down? What would it take for you to surrender? To listen?
This Sunday, live and in person, on our Huntley stage, Steve Carter will be helping us learn how to hear from God—in less than 11 hours, probably.
PS: If you are interested in attending the women’s retreat, mentioned above, click HERE.