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