Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 19, 1999

By Harold Keller / L’Observateur / May 19, 1999

This past weekend, I attended a retreat in Convent at the Manresa Retreat Center. Three years ago, I attended my first retreat at Manresa on theinvitation of my friend, Dr. Billy St. Martin. To be perfectly honest, myonly reason for attending then was not to disappoint a friend and not to seem ungrateful for his genuine concern for my spiritual life.

The thing that bothered me the most was that the three-day retreat was a silent retreat. No talking at any time, including mealtime. I thought thatfor me to keep quiet from a Thursday evening to a Sunday afternoon was humanly possible. Humanly impossible, yes, but the Bible says that allthings are possible with God. It was only by His grace that I shut up forthree days.

Did I enjoy my first retreat? Surprisingly, yes, but I was glad when it was over.

Last year, I decided to go back. In fact, I looked forward to the getawayfor three days. My concern of being silent for three days diminished.The retreat this past weekend was great! I sincerely looked forward to going, in fact, I could hardly wait. I anxiously anticipated what God wasgoing to do. One thing about a silent retreat is that if you can’t talk toanyone else, it forces you to listen to God.

I’ve mentioned the word “retreat” a few times in this article. Whatactually does “retreat” mean? Webster’s dictionary explains it as: “act of withdrawing, as from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable.”In a war, in the heat of battle, if orders are given to retreat, that’s bad news. It means that your side is in danger, and you are losing. You retreatto re-group and plan different strategy in order to win.

In the same dictionary, another definition is: “a place of seclusion, privacy, safety or place to withdraw.” This definition explains a religiousretreat. It’s a time to be alone, with draw, and look at your personalbattles with life’s problems. It’s a time to take a personal inventory – atime to get rid of the garbage in your life.

This past weekend, as I took my personal inventory – I didn’t like what I saw. I still have a lot of garbage to get rid of. Still, a lot of the old HaroldKeller – resentments, unforgiveness, pride, lust, envy, etc.

My advice to anyone is if you’re not ready to change, don’t take a personal inventory. What you see, I guarantee, you won’t like. My only consolation isthat God is God and He knows my heart.

Yes, the retreat was great. Unlike a retreat in a war where men withdrawto re-group and fight smarter, hoping to overthrow the enemy, a spiritual retreat is completely different. You withdraw and surrender. In otherwords, you admit that you’ve lost. You surrender all of your weaknesses toan Almighty God who fights and wins the battle for you. In Christianity,you must surrender in order to win.

Harold Keller is a regular columnist for L’Observateur

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