A choir director I know used to take his choir on a fall “advance” (instead of a “retreat”) to make progress on the fall’s music. Usually we think of a retreat as a time to get away or “save yourself,” as in a military retreat. I think all these nuanced ideas work well together: we seek to leave our normal routine, sometimes as a “life-saving” necessity to make progress in areas of our life where we feel stuck. For most of us, these are planned events. I want to tell you the story of a forced retreat.
Please Don’t Break
by Anne Grizzle
After keeping silence together
where the only sounds are the wind’s
whistle, woodpeckers drumming, high
pitched melodic trills from half a mile away,
one’s own heartbeat and soul stirrings,
the Creator’s soft whispered care —
it’s hard to find a word that’s worthy
to break that clearest crystal space.
I find myself frequently and joyfully “on retreat” these days…facilitating them for leaders and teams, guiding them for our own ministry teams, planning them for others on Sabbatical, and engaging in them for myself. No matter what the context or the group, the purpose of a soul care retreat is pretty straight forward: deepening intimacy with Christ.
We often think of retreats as times of refreshment, as times when we choose to get away from our normal activities of daily living in order that we might behold God and also examine ourselves and our ways. And that is what retreats usually are.
I am on retreat even as I type this. Over the years I have found that I need to pull back from the maddening that is sometimes my life. I have found that retreats have given me an opportunity to schedule time alone to regain my equilibrium. Retreats help me align myself to the presence of God. When I am no longer sensitive to the fact that I’m barking and biting or that my life has again become unmanageable, retreats make space for me to simply “be still and know”.
It sounds so indulgent. And I suppose it could be. But for me and many who work in people-oriented professions; who have lots of plates spinning; who say yes to more than we should, having a personal day—a “Beth” day, as I call it—is a novel experience.