When is the last time you took a step back from all that is going on in your life in order to give God your undivided attention? How do you create space for receiving, listening, and discernment? Are you sure that you are fighting the right battles? How do you want to live, so that you can be the person God created you to be and knows you to be…which in the end, is who you want to be?
These are questions that have been resonating with me as I read Ruth Haley Barton’s latest book, Invitation to Retreat. It is an invitation to stop and be with God, opening ourselves to true rest in His presence. It gives us an opportunity to let go of our grip on life, see the ways we are living in step with the sacred rhythms necessary for us to be present with God in our season of life (or not) and to discern the way ahead. It is the invitation that Jesus gratefully, willingly and consistently accepted from His Father and it is the same invitation that God gives us each today.
We all need what Barton describes as “strategic withdrawal.”
This isn’t a call to pull back because we are losing the battle and need to run for our lives (although we may feel that way). Strategic withdrawal means that we hit the pause button, remove ourselves from the day to day engagement with others in various aspects of our lives and sit with God to rest, recalibrate and re-engage in a meaningful and powerful way.
When’s the last time you’ve been on a retreat like that? I know I haven’t done this in well over a year. Any kind of “retreat” I’ve been on has been an extra work day, jam-packed with an agenda of items laden with expectations to produce something and get more done. While extra work days are important, they do not feed and care for our souls (which is what actually makes us “effective”). Only time away with God, where we can settle the constant churning of our hearts and minds and allow Him to guide us ahead, are we renewed and able to order our lives around what matters most.
“In the stillness of retreat, I am able to see more clearly how I am being pushed and pulled by other people’s expectations, by my own inner compulsions, and by the basic necessities of life in our culture, and I realize how far I’ve drifted from living my heart’s truest desire. It hurts to see this. It exposes the magical thinking that someday I might stumble accidentally into a way of life that works but will not require radical choices or disappointing anyone, including myself. Often, by the time I make it to retreat, I feel so overwhelmed and defeated that I convince myself I’m at the mercy of forces beyond my control. All of this is uncomfortable…when we realize we are not ordering our lives around what matters most.” ~From Invitation to Retreat
If any of this stirs a desire to accept the invitation to retreat, you may find the book helpful. Not only does it reflect on scripture and life, but it gives practical ideas to prepare for and while on retreat.
Regardless of whether or not you are able to physically get away, I wonder:
- What could strategical withdrawal look like in your life right now?
- How can you cultivate space for rest, re-calibration and re-engagement?
- What do you need most from God right now?