When I started practicing silence and solitude, I lasted ten minutes, eventually twenty, then a half an hour. Finally someone led me into an all-day silence and solitude retreat. I'd never experienced an all-day time of silence and solitude, so it was kind of daunting.
The morning felt similar to what I had done in the past on my own. But when it came time for lunch, we were told we were going to eat our lunch in silence. As we ate in silence in the retreat house dining room, I just fell to pieces. I started to weep and thought, What is this? What is happening here? I'm a pretty in-control kind of person. I won't usually let that kind of emotion overwhelm me.
And because we were in silence, because none of us were allowed to talk to each other, nobody could come and try to fix me. So all I could do was be by myself with God. He was my companion for lunch. And as I stayed with my experience, I began to be aware of the weight of Christian expectations on me—of being a good Christian, a good neighbor, a good mother, a good wife, a good person in ministry, a good leader.
I realized that my Christian life had become such a heavy weight. The tears were purely tears of relief that I wasn't going to have to go into this lunch and talk to somebody, that I wasn't going to have to figure out some sort of a social interaction, that nothing was expected of me. I didn't have to fix it. I didn't have to serve it. I didn't have to socialize over it. I didn't have to do anything but allow someone to serve me lunch in the presence of God.1