"Retreat"

>> Monday, March 2, 2009

When we arrived at the retreat we signed up for a small group in which we were to discuss whatever questions our speaker, Jo, asked us to discuss. On the first evening we grouped to meet one another and our question was "to you, what does 'retreat' mean?" There was brief clarification on whether they meant 'retreat' or 'a retreat' such as we were on, and decided we could answer either.

Most of the folks in my group thought of retreat as a good thing. A refreshing time away from the stresses of life. A time to rest and relax and pull a breath to return to the real world.

My idea was completely different from everyone else. I don't know if this is because of what I'd read recently, but the only thing I could see was that 'retreat' is what you do when you're in the middle of a battle and you're losing. In the case of medieval style battles (I don't know much about modern warfare) retreating is not considered shameful; wise battle leaders retreat with their armies when necessary... to higher ground, to a more strategically important location, to reassess and develop a new plan of attack. Possibly to begin a new process of negotiations among leaders, or to provide medical assistance to the wounded. Retreat is not a peaceful thing, it's a terrifying thing. It means that defeat is on the horizon unless you start making some changes. It means that if you don't quickly begin to relearn your enemy and identify their goals, to predict their moves more accurately and stand up to them, you may lose your kingdom to another ruler.

All of this seems to happen at every church retreat I've been to. All of the emotional breakdown and rebuilding that occurred this weekend could be seen as a retreat from the spiritual battles we experience every day in our lives. For me however, Friday night to Sunday morning is never long enough to first see the current battle conditions, then to identify the problems in our first strategy, and finally to settle on a better plan. It always seems just long enough to identify the problems and panic, but we never have the time to develop the new strategy. Sometimes there's enough time to allow the Spirit to bring us calm and peace after the panic, but never enough to decide what to change in our lifestyles or what steps to take next. What to do to make things different.

Although I'd not been on a church retreat until now since High School, I'd say that stands true for those ones as well. We get all hyped up in worship and praise, God says "Yo, pay attention to *this*", we fall apart, support each other, and then we feel better... for the moment. But even in High School no one offered, "Okay, here's how we can move forward. Here's what you do next." Trust in God. Pray more. Read His word. Learn how to listen. Communicate with someone and share your pain. Those are all great things to do, but how? "Oh, just trust in God. He loves you and He's got it all under control." Great! How do I do that again? Does someone have a magic button that will help me trust in the areas I don't? Trusting is like caring; if you don't, you don't, and at least I have no idea how to make myself do it.

But I think that's okay. Becky and Jo both taught that this process is hard and messy, and that's the way it's supposed to be. Retreating from a battle is facing the blood and the wounded and the fact that things aren't going the way you thought they would. But we always seem to stop there... when do we see as a church family that the bandages are on, the healing's begun, we have a new plan, and then turn together to re-engage the battle?

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About This Blog

Life is about changes; transitions from one place to another, from one purpose to another, from one being to another. They say that the person you are today is a completely different person from who you were ten years ago and who you'll be ten years from now. So far, at the age of 33, I've had four major transitions in my life which redefined who I am. Two years into the results of the most recent transition I am again - still - exploring how God is shaping me. Over the next few months I hope to review my past and set goals for the future, and embrace the next adventure of rediscovering me.
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