If you know me, you know I love to retreat. I attended my first retreat in 1991. I was nervous, and it was difficult to leave my family, but I knew I needed to get away. At that retreat, new doors were open to me, as if, in the pause, I was given a new set of glasses, and the whole world looked different.
I don’t retreat to escape the world. I retreat to fuel myself for the world.
- I retreat to return to the quietness I was designed to enjoy.
- I retreat to practice hearing God’s voice.
- I retreat for the space I need for God to change me.
- I retreat to rest.
- I retreat because it is good for my soul.
If you desire to grow spiritually, you must retreat.
If you are new to retreating, I suggest you begin with a “led” retreat. Attend with friends, or make friends at the retreat, but commit to observing some solitude during this time. God is longing for your attention, give it to Him.
If you are a seasoned retreatant, I challenge you to try a private, self-directed retreat. Bring only your Bible, a journal and an open heart. Let God lead you.
Here is a link to locating a retreat center. I have retreated in the mountains, the desert, at churches, and in hotels. The location isn’t as important as actually committing to a retreat – Just Do It!
I’ve created and led over 40 retreats. I have attended dozens more as a participant. So, I know a thing or two about retreats. Below are my top three “Dos and Don’ts.” I hope they give you the motivation to seek God in a retreat setting.
A retreat leader will usually spend a fair amount of time preparing for your retreat. It’s good to follow their lead. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and try their exercises and reflections. However, give yourself permission to follow God’s lead as well. As a rule, I say, follow the leader, unless you specifically feel God calling you to something else then, follow Him.
Do Pay Attention:
Outside our regular environments we tend to be more attentive. Open your eyes and look. Look for patterns, connections, and symbols. As you practice this type of “seeing,” you will begin to become more attentive at home.
Our lives are so focused on doing, and getting, and achieving … at your retreat practice being. Often I will cover the mirrors and clocks while I’m making a retreat. I try not to concern myself with my physical appearance or external schedules. In a culture where we are preoccupied with ourselves, it is freeing not observe myself, and just be present to what is going on around me.
Don’t Bring too Much:
A retreat is not intended to provide you the opportunity to catch up on your bills, or thank-you notes. Don’t encumber yourself with things to-do. Give yourself to becoming better acquainted with the part of yourself you neglect.
Don’t Stay Connected:
Leave your cell phone in the car, or keep it in airplane mode. If you’ve made a commitment to retreat, be present. If you have people at home who might need you, limit yourself to checking your phone once a day.
Yourself, the retreat leader, the food, the accommodations – nothing. God will use whatever He is given to teach you something you. Humility is of paramount importance in Spiritual Growth!