If you took a vacation this summer, how did you feel when you returned? Were you rested and refreshed?
In an age when daily life and even vacations, tours and cruises are characterized by pressure-packed schedules, a day of retreat invites us to soul-nurturing rest. That happens as we practice weekly Sabbath (doing no work for one day to see if the world can turn without my managing it) but even more delightfully in personal retreat. There we experience both peace and play at a slower rhythm to allow God more space to interact with us. A personal retreat can be a morning in the park, a day away or a few days away.
Once you’re practiced at it, you’ll set aside worries that you’ll be bored or lonely. You don’t expect amazing interaction with God . . . but it may happen, perhaps in quiet ways. You let yourself be calmed by rest that you’ve needed for a long time.
What a Retreat is NOT
A retreat is not work. It may even begin with a nap or a walk—something that signals to your body that you really are OK just being with God. It is a sacred space for rest and reflection. Trying to be spiritual will probably ruin it. Do you believe God loves you just for your own self . . . or do you have to being doing something to be loved?
In a personal retreat your goal is not to cover Bible passages. Instead, you enter deeply into one or two or three and interact with God about them. Your goal is not to come home and feel that you have achieved anything. This retreat is not about what you can do. It’s about being with God gently and knowing more about God’s true self. It’s nurturing your relationships with God with personal interaction.
In between times of “being in” the Word slowly, just “be.” Have fun. My favorite retreat centers also have hiking trails so I take off and hike. What happened in the Bible passage becomes so real to me when I’m sweaty and gazing at the beautiful horizon. At other times, I have great fun “porch sitting.” I watch birds and notice how the trees move in the wind. If I were a swimmer, I’d probably swim. Still other times, I look at books of great art that I’ve brought with me. Others listen to worship music. This provides space to let the mind rest and “connect the dots” between what we lack and what we need. Ideas coalesce and we’re surprised by what comes to us.. It creates space to hear God.
Many people are reluctant to retreat because they don’t know what to do. Because some need guidance, I have written three retreat guides, which are being released this week:
Learning to Hear God
(Click on any of them to see the introduction, list of meditations, and the first meditation.)
They each have seven sessions but you can use them any way you like: use only one or two; use them one morning a week for seven weeks; use them all for a three-day retreat.
In the introduction I give guidance like the above and also tell how to choose a place and what to bring. (See also: http://www.janjohnson.org/retreat_centers.html for a list of retreat centers.)
Jesus said, "I will give you rest," and he is eager to do that (Matthew 11:28).
Grace and peace,
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