Monday, February 05, 2007
How Long Has it Been?
It started with this question: "How long has it been since you met the Shepherd of your soul? How long since you experienced more than a splash of cool water on your face.....more than a verse and a hurried prayer en route to the car or kids or daily commute?"

Too long.

The book I'm reading, Resting Place, by Jane Rubietta, describes a retreat as "simply a concentrated/consecrated time with God...where we remove ourselves from the demands of life, and allow God to speak in an unhurried setting.

So how did my first attempt at retreat go? A few kinks, not completely smooth, but I ended up with 2 1/2 hours of interrupted time, a good start.

My intention was to head out of the house first thing; of course the phone rang and I had to run over to the bookstore for one little problem. Three hours later, I was finally headed to the Farmhouse Cafe. Afer ordering a caramel macchiotta and a biscotti, I settled into a chair by the fire, grabbed my Bible, journal and the book.

A young man was there, hoping to begin his thesis. He engaged every person who even paused within ten feet of him. Tip: I'd taken my iPod to drown out background noises, and turned it onto an album by Andrea Boccelli - perfect. He sang in Italian and because I couldn't understand a word of it, it was white noise in the background, worked great. Really. Drowned out the talkative man and didn't distract me with lyrics.

The first chapter of Resting Place went into the parts of retreat - praise, examination, reflection. I loved the author's description: "put your hand in his and follow the overgrown path to the water's edge." She made the point that we have to begin by discovering the Shepherd's care. That fatigue is a way of life. Even our vacations are tiring. She said we live with weariness, expect it, accept it and label it spiritual.

The most piercing realization that came out of my little time away was when she presented the concept that when God told us to rest on the Sabbath, it involved "denying ourselves." We'll always be tempted to overstretch, overwork, in an attempt to play the part of God. Let it depend on me, let me shoulder the burden. Because I don't trust God. Maybe I'm the only one who really has my best interests at heart?

Essentially a refusal to rest indicates a lack of trust in God, which reflects a pridefulness, and desire to control. Myself. Others. Situations. Circumstances. The author encouraged me to stop and think about the creatures in nature. How do they rest? I thought of the deer who often bed down behind our house, in the heat of the day. When day begins to slide into evening, they get up and leave together, being refreshed from their break. Are they smarter than me? What do I do when my life heats up? Generally, run into the thick of it, and scurry around, trying to fix it all myself. I certainly don't head for the shade and take a nap. Because it's up to me, you know.

Psalm 121:3 says "He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he will neither slumber nor sleep." My exhaustion is not only unnecessary, it's idolatry. Me on the throne instead of Him. The author sums up the chapter with this: It's time to pay attention to the cry in our heart for rest. We need our resting place again. There is only One. I might as well put my head on God's shoulder and sleep." I thought of all the times I've cradled one of my children, or grandchildren more recently. How completely content they were to just sleep on my shoulder. They were safe there. I was carrying them and would protect them while they rested. Isn't that a great mental image, one we've all seen - an infant, asleep on a parent's shoulder. In the middle of chaos, they just sleep, completely unaware of all of it. They just sleep.

Finally, "God's purposes may best be accomplished through our inactivity." That's what I got out of my first little retreat. Honestly, I was surprised at how much "happened" in that small space of time. I really can't wait to go again. I'll take my iPod again, just in case the guy with the laptop is still cranking away avoiding working on his thesis.

I was encouraged, when I posted that I was going to attempt this, by how many of you said you'd try it too. I so hope many of you will. If you can't manage that, at least grab your pillow, and curl up for a nap. It's not only okay, it's consecrated.

  posted at 11:00 PM

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