Editor's note:

Come away with me,” the Lord so often seems to whis­per. But how? And when? Our lives are so full, so very busy with very good, god­ly things. Sure­ly the Lord will under­stand our hes­i­ta­tion — our request for a raincheck. 

Emi­lie Grif­fin argues oth­er­wise in this excerpt from her guide to spir­i­tu­al retreat: Wilder­ness Time. Link­ing the indis­pens­abil­i­ty of retreat to that of dai­ly rhythms of prayer, Emi­lie reminds us of our des­per­ate need for this spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­pline: Because you are worn out by many annoy­ances and wor­ries, and you are seek­ing the refresh­ment of God’s pres­ence; because you need rest from the anx­i­eties of ordi­nary liv­ing, even from the legit­i­mate respon­si­bil­i­ties imposed by fam­i­ly, work, and church; because you want to fol­low the exam­ple of Jesus in going apart to pray.

Enjoy the wise coun­sel of Emilie!

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from Wilderness Time

Times come when we yearn for more of God than our sched­ules will allow. We are tired, we are crushed, we are crowd­ed by friends and acquain­tances, com­mit­ments and oblig­a­tions. The life of grace is abound­ing, but we are too busy for it! Even good oblig­a­tions begin to hem us in. 

Madeleine L’En­gle writes: Every so often I need OUT; some­thing will throw me into total dis­pro­por­tion, and I have to get away from every­body — away from all those peo­ple I love most in the world — in order to regain a sense of pro­por­tion.“1

Often, she says, she needs to get away com­plete­ly, to her spe­cial place, a small brook in a green glade. Like her, we wish for the kind of free­dom we had as chil­dren, a care­free spir­it, a jubi­lant heart. Refresh­ment is what we’re after: play­ful­ness, sim­plic­i­ty, a clear space, a time in the wilderness.

Find­ing time for retreat is as dif­fi­cult as find­ing time for prayer in an ordi­nary, over­sched­uled day. Whether the time be days or min­utes, the issues are the same. Is retreat one of our pri­or­i­ties? Does God have a place in our scheme? How far we have allowed our­selves to slide! How dis­tant we feel from the spir­it of prayer! Pos­si­bly the bar­ri­er is not time at all. What we are up against is not real­ly the pres­sure of events, not the many demands on our time, but a stub­born­ness with­in our­selves, a hard-heart­ed­ness that will not yield to trans­for­ma­tion and change.

Set­ting aside a morn­ing, a day, even a week or more for spir­i­tu­al retreat is one of the most strength­en­ing and rein­forc­ing expe­ri­ences of our lives. We need to yield. We have to bend. Once we embrace the spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­plines, we are car­ried along, often, by a storm of grace. Giv­ing way to the pow­er of spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­plines becomes a step toward free­dom, a move­ment into the wide-open spaces of the sons and daugh­ters of God.

Retreat — with all of its prayer­ful begin­nings and renewals — can become a step into real­i­ty. On retreat we may dis­cov­er our true iden­ti­ty not from any self-analy­sis but by God’s gift of enlightenment.

The spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­plines are ways to truth, step­ping stones from our furi­ous activ­i­ty into God’s calm and peace. When we have crossed over on the step­ping stones, we escape into the life of grace. Then and there it is the Lord who teach­es us. The pow­er of God is lead­ing us. Soon we hard­ly know where God leaves off and we begin.

How to Use Wilder­ness Time

[It’s right to raise and answer] prac­ti­cal ques­tions, yet the aim is not prac­ti­cal­i­ty as such but rather per­son­al trans­for­ma­tion in Christ. Hope of such trans­for­ma­tion moves us into a place apart, a time of prayer­ful sep­a­ra­tion from dai­ly pres­sures and cares. Trans­for­ma­tion is God’s doing — not ours — yet it hap­pens because we choose it, in this instance by going apart for reflec­tion and prayer.

Peo­ple some­times sup­pose that a spe­cial rea­son is need­ed to jus­ti­fy mak­ing a retreat. We assume that a retreat needs to be made on a cer­tain occa­sion. In fact, no more rea­son is need­ed than that your heart longs for greater close­ness with God — because you are worn out by many annoy­ances and wor­ries, and you are seek­ing the refresh­ment of God’s pres­ence; because you need rest from the anx­i­eties of ordi­nary liv­ing, even from the legit­i­mate respon­si­bil­i­ties imposed by fam­i­ly, work, and church; because you want to fol­low the exam­ple of Jesus in going apart to pray.

Excerpt­ed from chap­ter one of Wilder­ness Time (San Fran­cis­co: Harper­CollinsSan­Fran­cis­co, 1997).

Pho­to by Aaron Bur­den on Unsplash

We’re glad you’re here!

Help­ing peo­ple like you abide with Jesus is why we post resources like this one. Always ad-free, Ren­o­varé is sup­port­ed by those who know soul-care is vital. Would you join us?

Donate >