Thursday, 26 November 2015

Week #29: Take a Retreat

So many of us live our lives amid continuous obligations and burdensome demands.   The way out of such complex living is not simply the reordering of our schedules.  This complexity of our lives, this way of living that often chokes out all sense of spiritual vibrancy cannot be dealt with via a new system of arrangement or a way of task management.  We must get away.  We must put down all that clutters both our internal and outer spaces so that we may be open to the Spirit of God in our midst.  For many, the inability to live fully amid the Kingdom of God is simply because their lives are filled with too many other things.  Rearranging the 'too many things' may make us feel more efficient with our time or schedules, but it still leaves us with too many things.  A filled vessel is still a filled vessel no matter how we arrange those things that fill it.

Taking a time of retreat, by which we remove ourselves from the regular stuff of life is a powerful way to re-connect with God's presence around us. Yet to do this we must leave things behind.  We leave our electronics unplugged, our schedules at home, and our cell-phones off.  Taking a retreat necessitates that we resist the desire to fill up the time, either through the temptation to load various forms of entertainment and distractions or to remain constantly 'available' to the outside world.  These but tie us to all that clutters our lives. In retreat our time belongs to God alone. We submit to God's directions and initiatives.

There are many different ways to be 'on retreat.'  One can go on retreat for a month, a week, or a few days.  The length of time will differ based on the retreat you feel God leading you into.  Retreats can be guided by a director, or can be personally administered; they can be done individually, or as a member of a group. Periods of silence often play and important part in taking a retreat.

The discipline of taking a retreat, however, is not dependant on mountain chalet's and weekends of solitude. One can take 'mini' retreats as we go through our daily tasks.  What would it look like end our day by sitting in silence for 5 minutes?  What if we refused to answer any email after dinner?  When our schedule contains a block of time unoccupied, what if we saw this as an opportunity to sit in a nearby park and, as Jesus encourages us, 'observe the lilies of the field.'

The basis of taking a retreat is hearing the loving invitation of Jesus to 'come away with me to a quiet place and get some rest.'  Retreats lead us into a time of re-creation.  By turning off the noise of the world around us we give ourselves the opportunity to re-hear God's messages of love and grace.  It is important, then,  to have no expectations about our times of retreat.  Demands regarding 'how it should be done', and 'what we should get out of it', even 'how we should feel at the end' are unhelpful to us; they are undue pressures that remove our soul from the sanctity of our moments away.   To fill up our retreat with preoccupations about the 'right actions' the 'right response' or the 'right feeling' do nothing but diminish our attentiveness to the voice of the Spirit and the presence of Jesus.

 A retreat calls us to spend our time doing less, even though the world continually bombards us with messages demanding that we do 'more'.  Retreats call us to stop, even though the world tells us we must always be on the go.  Retreats call us to listen to God's voice instead of the multiplicity of noises that can too easily fill up our lives.

Taking a Retreat is a powerful discipline for it forces us to physically live out our internal desire for spiritual vitality.  We physically remove ourselves from the demands and complexities of our lives in order to enter an intensive and focused time with God.  In this we create the internal space needed to receive nothing but God's presence and voice in our lives.

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