Busyness pulls women away from God. Juggling multiple roles, such as, being co-provider of the family, wife, mother, daughter caring for elderly parents, sister, grandmother and friend can make one feel harried, fatigued and drained of energy. Faced with this daily, the tendency is to limit or deny the need to spend time with the Lord.
But God’s gentle whisper can still rise above the noise and din of daily activities. And for the 15 women who heard the invitation to Come Be-Loved Daughters of God retreat, and responded with openness from Nov 14-16, the rewards were empowering and liberating.
The hushed surroundings of Kingsmead Centre, well-tended gardens dotted with shady, quiet corners, provided the restful backdrop to coax the women to ponder their unique gifts and identity as God’s daughters.
Ms Candice Chong, 33, described how she came to appreciate her special sensitivity or woman’s intuition as a gift from God. “I have come to realise how I could use this gift to resolve situations and sense God’s presence.”
CT, a single woman in her late 40s, who wished to give only her initials, found that she had many reasons to celebrate about her ministry and her life, including her approaching menopause.
True vs false self
In order to please parents, spouses or even work colleagues, there are women who live according to others’ expectations or their own perceptions of what they should be. Martha, from the Gospel according to St Luke, was cited as an example of a woman who acted out of her cultural expectations, being busy and wanting to be hospitable. What Jesus wanted was for her to sit at His feet.
In a similar vein, some of the retreatants recognised that they were living out of their “false” selves. Revealed CT, who supports women as part of her many roles in her own Christian church. “I lived my life through people’s expectations, how effective I was and how much work I could do.” At night when she reviewed her day before the Lord, she found herself being self-critical of the things she did wrongly or failed to do. At the retreat, she learnt how to look back at the day with appreciation and gratitude.
Ms Genette Koh, 33, a part- time teacher who lost her mother when she was 19, was forced to be strong in order to care for her three younger siblings. She discovered her gentler side at the retreat. She found that she could strongly identify with the Virgin Mary’s femininity. “Mary’s strength was not in what she did but in her gentleness,” she mused.
God of silence
The enforced silence took some of the women by surprise when the retreat began. At the end of it, many found it helped them hear God’s voice clearly and allowed them to slow down and go about their day mindfully. The silence “becomes bountiful, there was a rhythm to the day without the use of an alarm clock,” was how one described her experience of silence.
A simple activity of picking an item or two from a range of objects including photographs, a pair of sunglasses, a pin, a notebook, a necklace and a tree branch, and reflecting on God’s message through the item, proved to be a powerful exercise.
One retreatant who picked up the notebook felt the invitation to start writing anew and trust God’s plan for her. Another who picked up a photograph of a train track amidst a towering mountain range, was reminded that life is a journey and the destination is not as important as savouring her experiences and living fully.
This retreat for women by women spiritual directors (SDs) was first organised in 2009. It was meant to meet the needs of women in different stages of life, to give them an opportunity to get away from their busyness, learn from their own experiences, and realise the importance of women in God’s kingdom, said Ms Roselie Chia, one of the SDs.
Initially, participants were retirees but as the years passed, more younger women joined in. Of the 15 who joined the weekend retreat for instance, the majority were in their 20s and 30s.
For Ms Jessica Tan, 25, the retreat “gave a lot of freedom” to allow God to speak to her in the silence. She felt that youth her age could benefit from a women’s only retreat such as this. “I don’t think feminine spirituality is often spoken about. Our roles as women at work, wife, mother, how to be close to God… to remain single or think about marriage – women my age wonder about these things.”
To find out more about Kingsmead Centre for Ignatian Spirituality & Counselling check out www.kingsmeadcentre.sg. n
By Mel Diamse-Lee