Silent Retreat: Allen’s Experience
Every four months, the men of Guiding Light’s Recovery program travel to the Hermitage Community in Three Rivers, Michigan for a three-day silent retreat. The program has been coming here for years to find a “place of retreat, following Jesus’ pattern of taking time away from daily tasks in order to be fully attuned to the divine mission on this fragile earth home — letting go of control and emptying oneself — embracing healing; refusing the power our pain and fear have over us and submitting to the enabling freedom of God.” Allen, a Recovery client, described his experience on the silent retreat as a life-changing and transformative spiritual encounter. At Guiding Light, he has described his life in addiction as being in a state of resignation, confinement to himself, and a seemingly intractable sense of hopelessness. On the retreat, however, he recounted a different form of confinement, one of hope and renewal. “The silent retreat for me, was an experience I’ll never forget, I really didn’t know what to expect. I figured it would be an opportunity to give back to God. As I got there, the Spirit led me in a different direction; to finally see life and to enjoy life on His terms, so to speak. When I got to my cabin, it happened to be the smallest one and it brought back memories of being confined to my addiction in small places. I grew to realize that instead, it was a confinement of joy and happiness.”
Living in active addiction is a frenzied, chaotic, and distressing way of life. Men that come through the doors at Guiding Light are mentally, physically, and spiritually broken human beings. It takes time to heal and to recognize that life doesn’t have to be this way. Guiding Light Recovery offers men the chance to get away and to separate themselves from the pandemonium of dependence on drugs and alcohol. The clients that make it through to the other side of our four-month program describe, in one form or another, a type of powerful and transformative process that they go through here.
At the silent retreat, Allen had an emotional experience coming to terms with his past and his present spiritual condition. “When I was in the prayer meadows, just admiring the beauty, as the wind came down it was like God’s breath. I decided to lay in the meadow, in the middle of the tall grass, with nothing but the grass surrounding me and watching it move back and forth. I had my knees up because it was so hot, and a little butterfly came by and landed on my leg, and I thought right then and there that God sent something down.
It just so happens that my grandmother was from Three Rivers, she passed there and her house was not too far away from the Hermitage. I actually sat there and talked to the butterfly like it was my grandmother and asked her how she’s been and how is it going now? And then the butterfly flew away, and it came back, and landed on my right hand. I got a closer look of it, talked to it some more and then finally released it as if letting it go.” Describing his experience, it felt to him like a moment “when God showed up for me, I was just humbled by the calmness and the beauty of it all.”
The ability to give men a chance at gaining another lease on life through spiritual transformation is one of the most compelling and distinctive aspects of Guiding Light Recovery. Moments like this are why we do what we do. The changes that men experience here are an incredible testimony to the intangible, mystical, and transcendent power of the journey we try to facilitate here. The journey of learning to change one’s ways and to live a new life in sobriety. To all of our donors, volunteers, and supporters, we cannot thank you enough for giving men like Allen a chance to experience the joys and wonder of recovery.