Retreat Day #2: Ways to Avoid the Journey

By Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB

As a light, gentle rain fell on the patio outside our dining room, Day #2 of our retreat began. Abbot Jerome continued his talk on our journey through the wilderness, noting that we need a guide. We need God.

Even when we know that, we can go the wrong way. How? By avoiding the journey entirely. How? In denial, escape, and control.


We all do this! We pretend we don’t have to do something; we dwell in places that keep us from having to go forward. Examples? When we find ourselves saying, “If only.” When we think everyone has it better than we do. Can you remember getting stuck in the “If only” trap? It’s hard to get moving again!

Judas and Peter both must have said to themselves, “If only I had never met Jesus.” In denying him, they experienced both regret and compunction … both roads back to God.


The most dramatic forms of escape are side trips, like drugs and alcohol. More socially accepted escapes include leaving your job or divorcing your spouse. We also sometimes simply dig our heels in and say, I’m not going to move one more inch. I’ve gone as far as I want to go.

When we cloud our minds with drugs or alcohol, when we change our circumstances by leaving commitments, when we put our hands on our hips and say, No!, we end up going backwards … staying in the wilderness without a guide for a long, long time.


Control is the most common technique for avoiding the journey. We all want to get our own way, right? We do so by gathering material goods, power and money. Thanks to these resources, we have no need to rely on anyone. We can go it alone!

Whether we relinquish control willingly or not, we eventually will see – during illness, loss of a loved one, loss of the accumulated resources – that we are, in fact, powerless.

The sooner we accept our dependence upon God, the better.

The sooner we let God lead us through the wilderness, the sooner we will arrive home, safe and happy.

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