I Need a Break
By Kelly Wright
It was a Friday morning in December 2007, and I had just finished taking the GRE (because my previous test was over 15 years old and didn’t count) as a part of my application process for a Ph.D.
To say I was maxed out during this season of my life would be an understatement. I was very busy. Not only was I pursuing acceptance into this competitive Ph.D. program, I was a wife, mom, counselor, business owner, and ministry leader. Maybe on the outside, I looked like I had it all together, but on the inside, I was starting to crumble. I was burnt out, disconnected, anxious, and wasn’t sure how to stop the performance wheel I was running on. I needed a break.
In the mess of it all the invitation to retreat came and I almost said no. The retreat was that same Friday and after finishing the GRE, I was exhausted. The last thing I wanted to do was to go away to a church thing for the weekend. When I told my husband I was not going, he was insistent that I needed this and thankfully I listened and obliged.
I almost missed one of the most life-changing experiences of my spiritual journey. It was a silence and solitude retreat, which can sound intimidating and monkish. Simply, this retreat had a rhythm of teaching times and times of silent reflection and by the end of the weekend I was asking when I could go again.
It was there I sat under the teaching of Ruth Haley Barton, who has spent a big part of her journey helping others connect to God and self through spiritual practices like retreat, silence, and solitude.
“The invitation to solitude and silence is just that – an invitation. It is an invitation to enter more deeply into the intimacy of relationship with the One who waits just outside the noise and busyness of our lives. It is an invitation to communication and communion with the One who is always present even when our awareness has been dulled by distraction. It is an invitation to the adventure of spiritual transformation in the deepest places of our being, an adventure that will result in greater freedom and authenticity and surrender to God than we have yet experienced.” Ruth Haley Barton
We are dangerously tired and in need of rest physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our internal and external world is noisy, busy, and filled with all kinds of distractions. God gives us the gift of retreat as a way to encounter Him and let our souls breathe.
Barton reminds us that God extends the invitation and gives us a choice to say yes or no. It is an invitation to deepen our relationship with God and rest in His love and peace.
When we consider God’s invitation for retreat, there are usually one of six invitations for us. The first invitation is for retreat or withdrawal from the battlefield of life. Our souls are weary, and we need a space to ask, “How is it with my soul?”
A second invitation is for rest. Ruth Haley Barton writes, “We are teetering on the brink of dangerous exhaustion, and we really cannot do anything else until we have gotten some rest.” Sometimes that most spiritual thing we can do is take a nap.
A third invitation is to establish a spiritual rhythm. Taking a quarterly retreat sets a pattern of connecting with God in this unique way and can become a life-giving rhythm.
A fourth invitation is relationship. Retreat allows you to focus on your relationship with God at a new level. Have you ever had extended time with God, giving Him a day to lead and guide what you do or to simply be with God? Again, it can sound intimidating, but remember, God extends the invitation because He has something for you.
A fifth invitation is to recognize and respond. Maybe God has an action step for you and getting away with Him allows for space to recognize and respond to His calling. Or maybe there is something you are considering and need to ask God, “What are we going to do about this?”
A sixth invitation is recalibration. This is an invitation to re-evaluate and make course corrections in your relationship with God or your spiritual practices. Time away allows for space to look at the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of your life and see what needs adjustments.
I’ve gone on too many retreats to count at this point, but I must confess I still need this practice in my life. I just returned from a retreat where my invitation was recalibration. I needed this space to rest my body and replenish my heart and soul. It still amazes me that a couple of days away, intentionally focusing on God, can fill me up and I leave feeling renewed and ready to get back on the battlefield.
As you prepare for 2024, would there be at least one weekend you could set aside for a retreat, a time just for you and God?