“I really loved how we didn’t have cell phone coverage this weekend.”
“I wish there were more places back home where cell phones didn’t work.”
These were just two comments I heard from students as we headed home from our annual fall retreat this past weekend. The retreat takes place at Sylvan Hills Christian Camp in Howard, PA, about 30 minutes north of State College. It is the middle of nowhere and there is no cell phone reception.
In a world where we are glued to our gadgets at all times, this disconnection can be both scary and liberating. I heard one student telling another that her parents are probably worried because they haven’t heard from her in nearly two days. When I was at Penn State I went on a retreat to the same place and my parents probably had no idea I had left State College. How the world has changed in just over 10 years!
It was appropriate to hear students make such statements, to reflect on the beauty of the silence and the joy of leaving some noise behind and getting into nature, because I had just talked about the spiritual discipline of meditation a few days prior. Meditation, as Richard Foster describes it in Celebration of Discipline, is listening to God. This is challenging because:
“In contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry and crowds…if we hope to move beyond the superficialties of our culture, including our religious culture, we must be willing to go down into the recreating silences, into the inner world of contemplation” (15)
Why do we not hear God speak? Perhaps part of the reason is that we can’t hear anything above the constant background noise of our lives.
My hope for the students, and myself, is that they would take time to find a quiet place where they can commune with God. I hope they come to know that the same God they met this past weekend in the woods is still there on campus.