Just throwing a few last minute things into my suitcase before heading out on a week-long writing retreat. Two friends and I go to a cottage for a week in April and a week in November every year, with the goal of getting a lot of writing done. We also eat fabulous meals, go for long walks along the waterfront, watch movies, and head into town one afternoon for coffee and shopping. Every evening we read something we’ve written that day to each other and get great, constructive feedback. Some of the favourite chapters in my books have come out of those critique sessions. I always say those weeks are the two most relaxing and productive ones of my entire year.
Don’t get me wrong. I love being at home with my husband and kids. I love my office where I work and my dogs and my own bed. Most of all I love not feeling as though I am missing out on what is happening here, or worrying that someone will need me while I’m gone. I love keeping up with laundry and dishes and cleaning so I don’t have a mountain of it to do when I get home.
The truth is, though, we need times away. Retreats are a time of renewing and refreshing. They restore us physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Jesus knew this. As much as he loved being with people and ministering to them, he showed great wisdom and self awareness in knowing when he needed to go away to a quiet place, alone or with his disciples, and spend time with God. He needed to be somewhere where no one demanded his time or attention, where he could rest, where he could be fed so that he could return and feed others once again.
My retreat will not be as much of a spiritual one as those were, but I do find that I am able to spend more time reading my Bible and praying, and my friends and I often have great discussions on Biblical passages, even theological debates, so when I return home my soul has been fed and refreshed along with the rest of me.
We live in a loud, chaotic, stimulating culture. Very rarely are our senses given a break. Most days I feel like Job, who said, “I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” While I have never experienced anything like the trials of Job, these words still seem to sum up the state of the world and, too often, the state of my inner being.
We are rapidly losing our ability to be still. And God commanded us to be still, because it is in the stillness that we hear his voice and remember that he is God (Psalm 46:10). It is in quietness and confidence that we renew our strength (Isaiah 35:15b). Of course, the beginning of that verse states that it is in repentance and rest that we will be saved.
Times of coming away from the demands of life, the noise, the busyness, the stress allow us to examine our hearts and our lives and to repent and confess before God those sins that create barriers in our relationship with him. Barriers we may not even realize are there until we take time to sit still, talk to him, listen to him, meditate on his word, and contemplate our lives and the condition of our souls.
As we head into a very busy holiday season, I encourage you to find a way to get away, even if just for a few minutes here and there. We are created to be in community, but we serve that community best when we take time to be alone with God, to rest, to create, to relax, to go for long walks in nature, and to eat great meals.
When we do, we will ourselves renewed, refreshed, and newly strengthened for whatever it is that we are called upon to do when we return.
Press on, my friends.