Pursuing Jesus in the Midst of Silence by Kylie Erickson

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I entered HLI without expectations of what I would experience, ready to take on this new challenge and create kingdom relationships with my classmates. Shortly after arriving in Duluth and beginning the program, we took off on a camping trip to bond as a class. It was on this trip that I encountered my first road block. On our first day of the camping trip Jess and Mike, the Duluth directors at the time, introduced our class to the Ignatian examen. We were asked to sit in silence with Jesus while reflecting on the scripture and questions given to us by the examen. Afterward, we came together as a class and talked about what Jesus had spoken to us during that time. I sat quietly as my classmates took turns sharing; while half listening my brain began to process through the anxiety that rushed through my body as I realized I couldn’t hear God’s voice.

The next evening we sat in a screen tent as rain poured outside and practiced prophecy. All of our names went into a bucket and we each picked a name and spent time listening to the Holy Spirit for a word, picture, phrase, or scripture for the name we had drawn. My paper for my person was left blank; the entire time of silence was filled with my anxiety over not having a word for this person. I wanted desperately to have something for him, and at the same time I didn’t want to lie and write something down I didn’t have.

These experiences propelled me into two months of pursuing Jesus in what I believed was silence. My journal was filled with frustration and crying out to Jesus, begging and begging to hear His voice; feeling that I was defective or didn’t have enough faith because I couldn’t hear Him. According to my leaders we all could hear the Holy Spirit and it was unique for every person. This had been taught to me my whole life, but I had never really experienced it on a daily basis. I became focused on my anxiety and fear around this subject, but I wasn’t going to stop pursuing. I wanted my relationship with Jesus to go deeper and I knew that my relationship with Him wasn’t based on a feeling or radical experience, so I continued to pursue, to worship, and speak with my directors and mentors in the program. I received encouragement and advice from my peers and leaders and for a split second I would feel hopeful, but then I wouldn’t hear anything and the anxiety would take over. I was frustrated, lonely, and losing hope that I would never hear the Lord.

Mid-November came with little to no change as we traveled to Wisconsin for the Midwest Regional fall conference at the Green Lake retreat center. Our class had gone a day early to meet with Steve Hamilton to learn about Soul Care and Lament. We sat down with Steve and our first session with him was on lament; he taught us about healthy lamenting and partnering our lament with Jesus. He then instructed us to find somewhere quiet for 30 minutes and lament with Jesus over something in our lives we were frustrated over. I sat down by the lake and began to cry over my notebook because I couldn’t hear Jesus. How was I supposed to lament with Jesus if I couldn’t hear Him? I began to write my lament of not hearing the voice of God. I walked back into the room and Steve asked one of us to share. I raised my hand and began to weep as I opened up to my class about my inability to hear Jesus. One of my classmates, Peter, walked up to me and gave me a big hug. In that moment I knew these people around me were for me and I wasn’t alone in this. Immediately, the wall of anxiety surrounding my inability to hear Jesus began to break down and I was able to enter into my quiet time with an openness I hadn’t had before.

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As I began to enter into time with Jesus with my walls down, I started to hear a soft voice. See, what I realized was that Jesus had always been there. The Holy Spirit had always been speaking to me, showing Himself to me, and the problem wasn’t that I was defective. I had allowed my fear and anxiety to become greater than reality and it pressed down upon me to the point of being unable to hear truth. It wasn’t until I allowed community into my brokenness, frustration, and anxiety that the walls began to break. I couldn’t do it on my own, and Jesus had placed these beautiful people in front of me to walk through this tension and lament alongside me, to help.

Mary McKellick