Last week, I went on a retreat.
I can’t tell you much about it because of the River Rule, which is the very coolest thing ever. So I’m going to tell you about the River Rule itself instead.
There’s a village on the banks of the Zambezi river where (the story goes) once a year all the women of the village get into boats and pole themselves gracefully across the currents to an island. The island is sacred and holy space, far from the banks of the village, protected by the waters of the mother river.
Once the women step foot from the boats to the land, the River Rule is invoked. Nothing that is said or done or felt on the island can be communicated to anyone ever. And no judgement is allowed. It is a place for truth, hard ones and easy ones and funny ones. And we know truth can mostly only live where there is safety.
It is a privilege among the women of the village to uphold the honor of the Rule. It is a gift they give themselves and each other, once a year, to honor the challenges, heartbreaks and joys of their lives as women.
Are you like me and you didn’t know how much you needed that until someone said it out loud?
I forge ahead in truth most of the time anyway and try not to count the cost. I told my mom just last night that so often when I speak about my postpartum breakdown, I see the fruit of it almost immediately in the women who reach out for help or fellowship. But there’s always a small part of me that worries about having that much truth, even truth that has proven so helpful to others, floating around out there.
To know that I am being heard and not judged and that everyone around me is striving to understand me with love and prayer in their hearts?
You guys, it’s a gift beyond explaining.
The River Rule is not unique to the retreat I attended. In fact, it appears in the Urban Dictionary, sans the village story, as a way of saying “This needs to stay right here between us”.
So I have two things:
If you’ve been feeling called to a women’s retreat, consider this your answer from God, that yes, you should go. Just go.
And think about instituting a River Rule with your friends. It’s a gift that can push friendship to sacred sisterhood.