I avoided it for years.

Early in ministry, I began to take two-or-three-day retreats for prayer, journaling, and recalibrating my relationship with God. In the constant blur of local church ministry, they became a spiritual oasis that refreshed my soul.

At the time, my spiritual director would often speak to me about the benefits of a longer retreat, an 8-day silent prayer version. I thought he was nuts. There was no way I would go somewhere for 8 days to simply be alone with God. Too scary. Who knows what might come up.

Falling Apart

And then things fell apart. A staff member had an affair that rocked our church and shook me to the core. We sought wise counsel from the outside, talked to a lawyer, had innumerable meetings with all involved and ultimately released the staff member.

All the while, I was angry about what happened and distraught over how it hurt the church. Even deeper, I got caught in the unfairness of it. The massive amount of extra work piled on my plate because of someone else’s sin embittered me, and I couldn’t seem to get over it. Quite apart from my issues, the church needed a steady, calming presence to move through this mess, so I soldiered on in my own form of a death march.


My increasing desperation finally led to a desperate act. I called my spiritual director and set up an 8-day retreat. In my first daily session with him, I shared that my soul felt like scorched earth. “I’m putting everything up on the table,” I said. “I don’t know whether I should stay at this church or even stay in the ministry. Maybe my life should take some other direction. All I know is that I’m going to continue to be Leanne’s husband and Zach and Jane’s Dad. The rest is up for grabs.”

One might think in a time of such desolation and raw honesty that my spiritual director would have shown some compassion for the suffering of a beloved, long-time directee. Oh no. He rubbed his hands together and said with a smile, “This is wonderful! God has you exactly where God wants you.”

I thought, “Apparently, you have a hearing problem. There is nothing wonderful about what I just said. It’s awful. It’s painful. I hate it. And I have no idea what I’m supposed to do or how I will figure it out!”

I left that session feeling even more demoralized and bewildered than when I came.

Clay Praying

But as the week progressed, God began to meet me in the darkness. Little breakthroughs of peace came in prayer. One day I joined a group that was silently “praying with clay.” A big lump of gray clay was plopped in front of everyone, and we were supposed to let the clay become what it wanted to be. (Really?) The point was to get us out of our own heads, but mostly it felt silly to me – until the next day.

That afternoon while praying outside under a shady tree, I suddenly saw in my mind’s eye a multi-colored mass of clay undulating as if it was alive. Within seconds, two words emerged in large letters. Trust Me.

A moment later, it was over. Nothing like this had ever happened to me. Other unique messages came my way as I spent increasing amounts of time alone with God.

Two Words

By the end of the retreat, I still didn’t have concrete answers to all my questions, but God had revealed a new way of doing ministry and life that is diametrically opposed to my nature. I still refer to it nearly 20 years later. Instead of “Make it happen,” God’s invitation was to “Let it come.”

My darkness was such a terrible place to be, filled with angst, anger, and self-effort to the point of exhaustion. Slowly, 8 days of silence brought peace, letting go, and reliance on God’s effort.

Ever since, the call has become a simple message. It’s just two words.

Trust Me.

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Roger Ross

A native of Cambridge, Illinois, Roger has served as a pastor in Texas, the British Channel Island of Guernsey, and Illinois. While in Illinois, he led teams that planted two new churches and served for 10 years as the lead pastor of one of the largest United Methodist Churches in the Midwest. It was his privilege to serve as the Director of Congregational Excellence in the Missouri Conference before coming into his current role with Spiritual Leadership, Inc (SLI).

Roger now comes alongside pastors, non-profit leaders and their leadership teams as an executive coach, specializing in leadership that inspires change. As a side gig, he loves teaching evangelism and church planting as an adjunct professor at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas.

Other passions of his include SCUBA diving in warm blue water, Krispy Kremes, board games with family and friends, and traveling in different cultures. He also has a weakness for golf.

Roger is the author of three books, Meet The Goodpeople: Wesley’s 7 Ways to Share Faith, Come Back: Returning to the Life You Were Made For, and Come Back Participant Guide, all through Abingdon Press.

Now for the best part. Roger is married to Leanne Klein Ross. Leanne grew up around Bloomington, Illinois where the two of them now reside. God has blessed them with two adult children, a son-in-law, several tropical fish, and one adorable granddog.