Just two days before going out of town with my family and only a week before Thanksgiving, in the midst of a busy time at church and final papers at school, I was required to retreat.
By ‘required,’ I mean that I would have received an ‘F’ for a class I was taking through George Fox Evangelical Seminary had I not retreated. And F is not in my vocabulary.
So retreat I did. For the first time in my life, I went on vacation alone. And for the first time in my life, I went on a personal retreat.
Many pastors do this on a regular basis. My dad used to retreat to Lake Tahoe – we only lived down the hill from there – and he’d stay a couple of days, alone, to read, pray, and work on sermons. I always envied that time he had. When it was my turn, I had mixed feelings. At first, I couldn’t wait to arrive at the beach. A break from my three kids? You bet! A break from making dinner, cleaning up, and managing our schedule? In a heartbeat. But when our son was ill and I had to reschedule my trip for another time, my priorities shifted and reality took over.
The following week, I wasn’t ready to go. There was too much to do at church, and there is always too much to do at home. A research paper was also due in a matter of days, and I couldn’t possibly take time off and do nothing. ‘Do nothing’ is also not in my vocabulary.
But I did. Do nothing. It was awkward at first. I had to let go of the worries about my kids and their schedules and trust my husband would figure it out. I had to check into the hotel alone, eat dinner alone, and figure out what to do all weekend … alone. When I did, God honored His promise to us from Psalm 46: “Be still, and know that I am God!”
I read through scripture, and I explored God’s Word. I took walks on the beach, and I slept later than usual. I read books, and I journaled. Whatever I did, I did for the sake of moving at a slower pace and with my eyes and heart open to God’s movement that weekend.
At one point, I explored the words of the prophet Jeremiah:
“Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:23-24
How desperately I needed this reminder of God’s presence with me, while away from my family and obligations. How important it was for me to turn my heart towards what God had for me to hear and experience that weekend.
In this season when it’s common to make New Year’s resolutions – or promises to ourselves for 2012 – consider your attention to the One who loves you most. Make a recommitment to be still, whatever that looks like in your life, and to allow God to touch you and love you in a new way.