Dating God: Personal Retreats

Last week, Jeremy (see previous post) made the following statement: “For a while now though I’ve felt like I need to go camping alone for a few days and do nothing but fast, read the Word, and pray. The idea just hit me outta nowhere once, and it pops back into my mind every once in a while.”

My first thought was, “Wow, God wants to spend time with you! How awesome is that?” I sure want to encourage him to follow through on this. Here’s why:

For centuries, Christians have taken themselves out of the busy-ness of everyday life and “retreated” to a quiet place in order to reconnect with God. Jesus set the standard for this. All throughout the gospels, we’re told that Jesus went away to a lonely place to pray. Sometimes He invited the disciples to go with him.

One of my favorite “retreat” stories is in Mark 6:31. The disciples were so frazzled from doing the ministry God had given them, they didn’t even have time to eat. So Jesus invited them to accompany him to a quiet place to rest.

I think this passage resonates with me because all too often, I find I too lack time to eat. I’ll grab a banana, or a box of crackers, and munch at my desk, or while driving to my next appointment. My husband, Pete, frequently skips lunch, and often doesn’t get home in time to eat dinner with me. We’re not alone. As a culture, we are far too busy.

God values rest. Of all the Ten Commandments, it seems that the church today struggles most with the command to keep the Sabbath. I’m sure I’ll come back to this topic, so I don’t want to dwell on it here, but I do want to say that if God used up one out of the ten commandments to emphasize our need for rest, He must think it’s important!

Why does God consider rest so crucial?

More and more, we saturate our days with noise. We live our lives to our personal iPod-driven soundtrack. In many homes, the TV is always on, spewing news, canned laughter, or some announcer’s voice explaining how we can improve our lives by buying the right brand of deodorant. Add in all the ways we communicate with one another, and there is little time in which to really stop and listen.

“We are so afraid of silence that we chase ourselves from one event to the next in order not to have to spend a moment alone with ourselves….” This quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is even more significant when you consider he died in 1945, before the invention of modern technology.

Into all this distraction, the Holy Spirit speaks to us in a still, small voice. Read 1 Kings 19, especially verses 11 – 13.[1] How in the world can we hear Him above the racket?

Finally, our relationship with God is very similar to our relationships with our friends and family members. I married Pete because I love spending time with him. When he gets busy, with work or some project, I miss him. Sometimes we do thing together with other people, and that’s fine, but if group “dates” were all the time we shared, I’d feel very deprived. We need our one-on-one time.

Relationships take time. There is really no substitute for spending time getting to know someone. Our relationship with God is the most important relationship we can have. Shouldn’t we prioritize spending time with Him?

We’re at a real advantage at this point, because the Holy Spirit indwells us. We can talk with God any time, anywhere. But we also need to set aside time to focus exclusively on Him.

Spending time away from our daily routine, without distraction, without other people, without the noise we have become so inured to we hardly notice it, gives us a chance to connect with God. We connect deeply, intensely, joyfully with the One who desires our companionship so much that He was willing to die for us. God wants to take you away to a quiet place, to rest, listen, and experience His love. Can you fit Him into your schedule?

[1] 11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

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