104 days. There are 104 days until I graduate. As a senior with graduation on the mind, I walk around campus and don’t just see buildings and landmarks; I see memories and moments, shadows and echoes of the story I have lived here. I can see the past versions of myself that have evolved into the person I am today, and if I’m honest with you all, many of those past selves would not have been able to spend an hour alone in silence, let alone several minutes in prayer. Yet, recently I attended a 2.5 day silent Ignatian prayer retreat. Needless to say, there have been some changes in my life during my time at Georgetown.
Fr. James Martin, SJ writes in his book The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life, “Being silent is one of the best ways to listen to God, not because God is speaking to you during your noisy day, but because silence makes it easier to listen to your heart.” Three years ago when I began attending Chi Alpha as a student searching for a greater meaning to life and for a faith that I did not yet really know nor understand, the idea of listening to God speak to me seemed impossible. And yet, as I felt drawn back to the welcoming Chi Alpha services every Wednesday night and to my supportive small group bible study on Mondays, my perspective began to change. The more I learned about Christianity the more I wanted to know, and slowly began to fall in love with this new source of light in my life. A year later I would become a Christian, and just six months ago I was baptized. My life, thanks to Chi Alpha, has changed forever.
I had my own agenda going into that silent retreat: pray, discern, and listen to God’s voice about these 104 days to come, and the post-grad life I am to live after them. I had spent the previous months and years talking and asking questions and avoiding silence. Yet, when I removed myself from the noise of the world around me, including my own voice, God gave me the gift of hearing my own heart. And what He brought to my mind was not what job to apply for after graduation or how to live my last few months on the Hilltop. Rather, He brought my mind back to those memories and moments, shadows and echoes of the story I have lived on this campus and to times when silence would have scared me. He showed me that I have grown into a woman of God, who through trusting Him can do what I once thought was the impossible: hear His will. When those 104 days come to a close and I look out into the world and workplace I am stepping into, I will not be afraid. Unlike the freshmen I once was who didn’t even know how to begin a prayer, I will now and forever look to my God, my friend, my Savior, and know that silence is not a lack of noise. No, it is space to hear His voice and my heart. What a true gift, and one that I thank Chi Alpha for every day.