For some people, the thought of attending a church retreat is out of the question. Many women think they’re downright scary. Past experiences might dredge up memories of too many tears spilled and excessive vulnerability. Men’s retreats would probably have different variables but often end with the same result – “Glad I went, but probably won’t go again next year”.
I remember the first women’s retreat I attended. I think I knew ten women out of the three hundred there. The program was well planned and perfectly thematic. Even though the theme was meant to teach me life isn’t perfect, everything I saw suggested otherwise – from the welcome note on my bed to the extravagant centerpieces. The women leading the event were also pretty perfect – at least they seemed so to me. Even their stories, which were tactically peppered with confessions of personal imperfections, left me feeling “less than” and envious. It seemed the only participants who really benefited from the event were the party planners themselves.
In fairness, I’ve also attended some very deep and meaningful retreats which were well planned and thematic. But, whether they are polished, planned or spontaneous – I believe spiritual retreats are necessary for the health of the human soul.
Retreat is a separation from and a leaning into. It’s a summons of sorts, a drawing to a place where we can meet with God.
Feelings of restlessness, dissatisfaction, agitation – even overeating or cynicism can be indicators for me that it’s time to remove myself from my path of ordinary and visit his extraordinary – time for retreat.
I realize not everyone has the luxury of planning lengthy getaways or even taking a weekend off for that matter – but everyone can benefit from seeking out a personal place for spiritual refreshment.
Retreat can be Brief
Don’t you love reading stories of persecuted followers who found connection with God in the most precarious places? I do. Their retreat took place on the floor of a prison cell or concentration camp. Certainly we can find time within our busy day to retreat. Sometimes just a few moments away from the noise of life, the workplace, even family, can usher us right into his open arms. He promises us that in Duet 4:29, Pro 8:17, James 4:8 to name a few.
Retreat Can Take Place Alone
Some of my most meaningful retreats have occurred alone while in transit on my way to attend an event – either on a plane or in my ‘holy car’. They were planned. Days prior I prayed for my retreat – I knew I was leaving my usual routine and would be carving out uninterrupted space for my Savior to join me. Anticipation was heightened like a child on Christmas Eve. Scripture supports this principle in Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12, Psalms 46:10 and many other places.
Retreat Can be Shared
Soul care comes in many packages. The benefit of doing a corporate retreat has its own unique advantages. Obviously sharing the experience brings personality, diverse perspectives – and hopefully fun to a retreat. Play is as essential to the health of our soul as challenging our set theologies. Corporate retreats stretch me to get outside myself – to lighten up, which I have to admit isn’t all that easy for me. Eccl. 5:18, Pro. 17:22, I Tim 6:17
Retreat Can be Spontaneous
The control freak in me hates spontaneity – maybe that’s why God continually calls me to it. Retreats can erupt within an unplanned event. As I write this post a well loved speaker/missionary/pastor known to our community is sitting in prison in the Philippines on false charges. He is having an encounter with God while sharing space with other men who are also locked up. No doubt his retreat is spontaneous but he had to choose to participate. He also has chosen to make it a shared experience. The lasting fruit of nearness to God and new believers is in direct proportion to his answer to the call of spontaneity. I’m personally envious.
How do you respond to his summon to retreat? Please share your thoughts with the rest of us here.