A Silent Retreat, A Rotten Boyfriend, A Burning Bush


“Nothing would make me happier than supporting you.”

I was sitting on a bench staring at the Palisades of the Hudson River when these words came to me. I didn’t think it was the voice of God.

This was day three of a silent retreat. I had two more days to go at Mariandale Center. Back in those days, when I taught in the city public schools, I went on retreats as much as I could. I needed the silence more than ever.

I don’t know why I didn’t think God was talking to me; I’d embraced the idea like I did everything at that time – appearing enthusiastic but with an undercurrent of anxious impatience.

I’d been given assignments: walk the labyrinth and ask God a question. Hike a path in the woods and search for God’s presence in nature. Go to the pottery studio and make clay-throwing a spiritual practice.

I’d done all these things and got no answers, no divine message, no sign, no cosmic omen. I remember on day one speed-walking the labyrinth, saying to myself, “OK, God, I’m here! See me here? See me walking? I’m walking! I’m asking! Show me some answers!”

But still I heard nothing.

So by the time I settled down with a book on that bench by the Hudson, I’d given up. I mentally went back to my regular life outside the retreat, where relationship troubles and workplace angst loomed. I’d just been wondering how to repair my broken relationship when those words came to me:

“Nothing would make me happier than supporting you.”

I thought I was supposed to say that to the man I was in a broken relationship with. I thought it was going to fix everything. I thought my saying it – not feeling it but saying it anyway – would repair the damage we’d done.


An urgent phone call

I pictured myself saying it to him in his kitchen once I got back from the retreat. But I couldn’t wait that long, so I called him.


“Nothing would make me happier than supporting you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

After a few choice words, we hung up. It completely backfired.

What kind of cosmic advice was this? I’d gotten nowhere, maybe even made things worse. He thought I was being condescending and insincere.

What a mess.

I went back to the labyrinth, asking, “Why’d you make me do that? I needed help! What kind of help was that?”

I threw another bowl. I sat back at the bench on the Hudson.

No answer came to me. I couldn’t figure out what went wrong, or why, or how; I only knew I shouldn’t have said what I said.



I finished out my retreat and went home to Brooklyn. I went on to have many more fights in that broken relationship.

It took me days, maybe even weeks, to figure out what happened: God was speaking to me about me. He didn’t give me those words to give away to someone else; God wanted me to know he’d support me and nothing would make Him happier. God was trying to show me that the most important relationship is the one I have with Him and the one I have with myself.

Once I understood the words, I knew what I had to do. I chose to trust fully in God’s support of me.

I left that relationship and the broken self that I’d become.

I never again questioned those words. I never again gave them away to someone else.



  1. Novemi-732443 August 1, 2011 Reply

    Your article was of impact to me in many ways than one. First, I could feel your pain during the process before you realized what God wanted you to do vs. what you thought He wanted for you. Second, I admire your act of discernment in that God was indeed speaking to you. Last, the result of this process was certainly an achievement of your faith in trusting Him fully. This is an inspiration to me. God bless you.

  2. Marie-575233 July 23, 2011 Reply

    I have learned by loving myself :treating myself with respect, kindness and compassion as well as nurturing myself ,those who are loving, kind and respectful are drawn to me.People will treat us the way we treat ourselves.Everyone needs love.It nurtures existence.

  3. Maria-670306 July 23, 2011 Reply

    Love your articles!

  4. Michael-745248 July 22, 2011 Reply

    I’ve had plenty of moments of God speaking to me like that and my first reaction is to think, “hey, this person needs to hear this, that’ll fix it.” When I thought about those sentiments though, I knew I’d only want to say the words in my heart that I had read out of spite and realized by His grace, the messages were for me. They gave me great peace.

  5. LillianTeresa-528523 July 20, 2011 Reply

    Thought provoking! Wonderful!

  6. Jim-397948 July 20, 2011 Reply

    I am really sorry that you had to go through all this heartache…You deserve better and I hope God heals your heart…Sorry about the misery of looking out onto the Hudson River…You see I am a sailor and I sail near Haverstraw….There are times that the Hudson River is my refuge since I enjoy sailing and forget the cares of the world….Sailing has also introduced me to a network of new friends.

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