You're my place of quiet retreat; I wait for your Word to renew me.
(Psalm 119:114 The Message)
As time passes, I have realized the value of times of retreat. I used to think of times of retreat as something along the line of a "forced withdrawal". I really just did not enjoy time away from what I was doing everyday. Some would have called me a little too "retentive" - - if you know what I mean! I have come to recognize that "retreat" is sometimes the most strategic thing you can do!
The very act of withdrawing into a place of quiet and safety is often the best "move" we make. That very "movement" into a place of what appears to be a "lack of movement" is actually bringing us to a place of refuge - - within that refuge, there is privacy for the planning of the next movements we will make.
The opposite of retreat is advancement. There are very specific times when we need to pull away, step back, and allow God to change our focus long enough to impact our plans for the next steps we take. David had learned this very important lesson of retreat - - he made God his place of quiet retreat.
Here are some lessons on "retreat" that I want to share from my own experiences:
- We have a tendency to make others our place of retreat. When things aren't going as we'd like, we sometimes find ourselves gravitating to the "comfort" of "sounding off" to another individual. There is nothing wrong with having a trusted friend. Yet, there are times when the best person to "hear about" our issues is not our trusted friend, but God himself. We have to guard against using our trusted friends to be what God deserves to be in our lives.
- We have a tendency to make God operate on our time frame. The fact is, times of retreat may be necessary long before we feel we are "ready" for them. We often don't realize how "ready" we were for the benefits of "retreat" until we have enjoyed the blessing of that time away from what it is that had us all wound up so tight in the first place!
- We often don't understand the joy of quiet until we have stepped away from the chaos of the daily battles. In the midst of the fray, we seldom realize that we have no real sense of "peace". I am not just referring to the absence of noise - - but the real sense of assurance that comes from knowing that what you are engaged in is exactly as it should be. In the times of retreat, there is often a "re-ordering" of our steps. Until we enjoy the quiet place, we won't see the next steps we need to take.
- We have a hard time with the waiting part of retreat. Just as soldiers "pull back" into periods of retreat, we need to do the same. In the "retreat", time is given for healing, fortification, and just enjoying each other a little. To be at our best, there are times when "waiting" is the best "action" we can take!
Not sure where you find yourself today, but if you have been hitting it hard, you may be ready for a little retreat from the chaos of your circumstances. The fact remains, no one can run at full speed forever - - we all need times of retreat. It may take some doing, some adjusting of your priorities, but you will find the benefits of retreat far outweigh the constant "plugging away" under the pressures of your day.
I don't believe "retreat" times need to be extended weekends away from home in some chalet on the mountain top, long vacations away from phones and emails, or periods of sabbaticals from your profession. I do believe they need to be frequent, dedicated times of rest. Times when God is able to renew us at the very center of our being. Wherever, and however that is accomplished in your life - - do it! You don't realize the benefit of retreat until you have taken the opportunity to experience it!