Introductory 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

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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