Janice Peterson and her late husband Eugene Peterson are very special people. They have so lovingly given themselves away as they practice spiritual friendship, even with me. Here, Jan talks about the value of hospitality in building rich, meaningful friendships. I think these words will be a literal gift to your heart and soul. Masterful and luminous, you will be inspired and encouraged to do the hard and holy work of digging deep into true community using simple acts of giving yourself away. It’s a grace to welcome Janice to the farm’s front porch today…
ver the course of my life, I have learned to accept that I am still in process.
Choosing to accept whatever work God is doing in my life has helped me be open to new experiences and new ways of seeing myself and my relationships.
One year, Eugene suggested that the two of us go to Kirkridge Retreat Center in the Poconos Mountains of Pennsylvania for a weekend retreat on leisure time with the Quaker writer Douglas Steere.
I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but any time away from the church and family and alone with my husband was a welcomed invitation. We made arrangements for my folks to stay with the children.
We drove up, arriving for the retreat late afternoon on a Friday. The retreat started with dinner and the first gathering was right after.
Douglas had us introduce and tell a little about ourselves—where we lived and worked and any other description that would be helpful to each other.
Then he spoke for forty-five minutes or so about leisure time with God.
He said the busyness, the distraction, and all the involvements of our lives often left out the most important part of our Christian life and faith.
The Great Silence
And then he called us into silence for the whole weekend.
I told Eugene at bedtime (even though we were supposed to be in The Great Silence) that I didn’t think I could not talk for the whole weekend.
He comforted me by saying, “We can take a walk together on the Appalachian Trail tomorrow afternoon and talk some then.” My dear husband, holding a carrot out before me.
The next morning, we all ate in silence through breakfast.
After Douglas spoke for a time, he sent us out to walk, journal, write, do whatever by ourselves.
While at first I dreaded the prospect, this time was a whole new, wonderful beginning for me, for engaging with my inner life and learning how to be comfortable with me—Jan.
As Eugene and I walked around the retreat grounds, others were doing the same. As we passed one another, I felt something between us that I had never felt before.
We didn’t greet each other as we might have done at the post office or grocery store.
We were in silence—in The Great Silence—and it was good. Our spirits connected without saying anything or smiling at each other.
Eugene and I did take our walk on the trail in the afternoon, and we talked a little. But with no demands to make conversation, I found I didn’t want to break the silence with my voice.
The mealtime was an eye opener. The colors of the food, the reds and yellows, the greens and oranges just seemed so intense leaping up off the plate at me.
Eating in silence is not what we normally do, but I found I enjoyed the food and the quiet in a way that seemed almost natural to me.
Refreshed and Renewed
On Sunday morning, we came out of The Great Silence to share what transpired for each of us.
I had been praying the Psalms during the weekend and had noted some phrases that had stayed with me:
“Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fullness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11, RSV); “Answer me when I call, O God of my right! Thou hast given me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer” (Psalm 4:1, RSV).
We returned home deeply refreshed and renewed, and I returned home as a different person.
I had been introduced to something that was too good to keep.
I shared about the experience with my Bible study group and suggested that we go on a day of silent retreat together. We started our annual silent retreat that June and look forward to it each year.
I have become a much more introspective person, which I think probably happens naturally to extroverts as we age, but it has also been an intentional journey of accepting how God has grown me.
I build on those past experiences and find I really do need to be quiet in the presence of God and to be alone with Him.
And I think this just might be God’s way of preparing us for the end of our days on earth—for one day being with Him with no interruptions.
Seize the Silence
The experience of becoming more introspective has impacted me greatly over the years.
With all the technological“stuff” around us, I feel we should seize these kinds of opportunities whenever we can.
We can do this kind of thing in home groups for just an evening. We can start small!
By learning to connect with God in the silence, learning to become more introspective—no matter our personality—we become more able in understanding and accepting of ourselves, which leads us to become more accepting of others.
When we’re relating with friends, we accept them for who they are and what they talk about.
But in order to approach these relationships with open hearts, we need to learn to accept ourselves.
Accepting how God has created us will allow us to invest in our relationship without jealousy or judgment.
None of us can change overnight.
We are all in the process of becoming.
Janice Peterson is the wife of the late beloved pastor and author Eugene Peterson and the mother of three. Becoming Gertrude: How Our Friendships Shape Our Faith is her first book.
Here, Jan introduces us to her neighbor of long ago, Gertrude, and the tall drink of friendship that that has poured out from Jan’s life, all starting with that first glass of lemonade. Janice reveals the cords of caring, accepting, serving, offering hospitality, and encouraging others. These five strands weave a well-lived life colored with spiritual friendship that will help you to follow Christ in deeply relational ways.
Becoming Gertrude is one beautiful woman’s wisdom on the beauty of spiritual friendship and God’s unfolding grace over the course of a life lived for Him. You too can have rich, rewarding, faith-filled friendships that emerge from the everyday rhythms of your days.
[ Our humble thanks to NavPress for their partnership in today’s devotion ]