“I definitely am so extraverted and I love people and I get my energy from people,” shared Mikayla Weaver, ‘23, in an interview with La Vida. “but I’m also really empathetic so sometimes I know that I need a break from people to process my own emotions and to separate what I’m feeling from what the people around me are feeling.”

Weaver did a summer La Vida expedition canoeing through the Adirondacks, right before her first year at Gordon. She shared, “I grew up in the Adirondacks, so I was like, let me go hang out in my backyard for two weeks!” After a trip full of challenges, there was one more aspect left to face: the solo. Weaver shared, “Everything about the solo was hard but really good. I felt like that was probably the best example, at least for me, of challenge by choice, because it was like, ‘this is … part of the curriculum, but these are the things you can add into it.’” 

The option of adding different levels of challenge and discipline to her solo was not only appealing, but generated a space for Weaver to dig deeper into specific prayers and goals. Alongside the challenges already presented with solo, Weaver chose to try being entirely silent. “Being silent for that time was very formative for me.” Once she tried it, she was able to say, “This is really great, and I feel very grounded and peaceful doing this.”

Her group started the 60 hours of alone time by singing the doxology, and then tromped off into the woods. Weaver had experienced smaller solos on different church retreats growing up, but not to the extent of La Vida. There was a newness about entering into the disciplines of fasting, solitude, and silence. Weaver’s experience was shaped by plenty of time in reflection and prayer. “I spent a lot of time sitting on this big rock and looking at the water and just praying, reading my Bible, and journaling.”

When asked about a specific prayer she had during her solo time, Weaver shared, “I prayed for a lot of peace and discernment. I was processing a lot during the trip and trying to really work through…my identity in Christ before coming to college…I really wanted to solidify where I was in my faith before entering a brand new environment.”

After taking 60 hours of silence, solitude, and rest on her trip, Weaver realized that this time with God didn’t have to be limited to life in the woods. “Being silent for a time was really helpful in taking focus off of me and having focus on God, focus on my relationship with him and what was going on with me spiritually. That was really hard, but it was also really important and very formative for me spiritually. I didn’t feel like it was something I could do every week, but I figured I could probably commit to doing it once a month.”

Since her trip over a year ago, Weaver has taken a day each month where she is completely silent. “I minimize or don’t do any work on that day, so it’s sort of my Sabbath. Recently I’ve been spending the day reading through psalms and just praying. A lot of times I’ll make a list before of people that I’m praying for that day, or different aspects of things I’m praying for.”

Mikayla Weaver ‘23 (third from left) with her La Vida canoe group in 2019.

Weaver has seen these times help her grow not only in her relationship with God, but in her relationships with others. “Practicing this discipline is good because it also translates into me, every month, being very thoughtful and formative about what I need to be praying for and who I am praying for. That translates into being really conscious of the people around me and looking for ways to pray for them.”

Even when she is having a hard month or is feeling distant from God, it is this practice that keeps her grounded. “I’ve seen God providing a lot of comfort and a lot of strength for me…While I feel like my faith is growing, sometimes I also hit seasons where it’s very stagnant, which is kind of disheartening. But in some ways, the regular fasting and silence is good in that time… It’s something that is constant. [Even] when it doesn’t feel like I’m growing in my faith, I know it’s something that helps me grow.”

Practically, Weaver has seen this practice shape her in a new way as she has entered into her sophomore year. This year has come with a lot of changes for Weaver, from COVID-19 to being a Resident Advisor in Lewis Hall. Her monthly discipline of silence and prayer has transformed the way she approaches her leadership. “Having a day that’s set aside…is very helpful for me as a leader because it returns me to my foundations. It gives me space to be really prayerful and process the things going on. I think having a strong foundation as a leader translates into bringing a strong foundation with your leadership. I hope…something I’ve been able to bring to my floor is…a grounding presence.” Her ability to guide and support residents has been shaped by her willingness to be guided and supported by God in consistent times of prayer. 

Ultimately, she shared, “Repetitive discipline and quiet discipline is helpful. [I know]…that I’m going to have a specific day every month where I’m just going to abide in him, the whole day, and not focus on anything else.”

Article by Electa Sutton ’21, La Vida Intern