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Taking time away for refreshment is essential

By Brenda Jank

I was surrounded—inundated by three little boys under the age of three. My life was a dream come true, but more taxing than I had ever imagined. Unprepared for chronic exhaustion, I found myself growing dangerously depleted, with no end in sight. That year, spring brought the promise of warmer days and sunny skies, but it couldn’t melt the winter slush that had settled in my soul.

While I was in meltdown mode one Sunday afternoon, my husband, Tim, handed me the car keys. With a perfect amount of warmth and firmness, he said, “Go. We’ll be OK. Don’t come back until the kids are in bed.”

Where did I go? Outside. I needed the sun in my face, the smell of spring in the air, and the promise of new life emerging from the soil beneath my feet. I found a park.

A Spring Start
It’s been nine years since then, and babies no longer dominate my life. Instead, I deal with spelling tests, skateboards, and deodorant. That impromptu getaway created a tradition that breathes new life into my soul each spring—a retreat, just for me, at a camp not far from home.
I had been introduced to the blessings of personal retreats while on staff at a church outside of Chicago. Initially, I was intrigued, yet leery. What would I do all day, alone with God? In spite of my reluctance, God met me in the quiet hours of that first afternoon. I was hooked.

Even with a strong beginning, my commitment to personal retreats evaporated with the arrival of my children. Life got more complicated. I was prone to guilt, and taking time away felt selfish. I allowed my heart to grow accustomed to running on empty. It worked for a while, but God sent a wake-up call in the form of desperation, together with Tim’s invitation and a dangling set of car keys.

I no longer wait for the gauge of my emotional and spiritual reserves to blink in warning. Spring triggers for me a commitment to rest and reflection. Going away to a retreat center for a long afternoon alone recharges my batteries and melts away the slush. It allows me to catch my breath, take inventory, and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.

Room to Breath
Life in the twenty-first century is in overdrive. It’s fast, loud, and typically hurling at breakneck speeds. Our overloaded lives groan with fatigue. Still, we treat our need for rest as an uninvited guest.

Committing to rest positively affects every aspect of my life. It fortifies the soul, fuels passion, and fans faith. The power of this kind of rest and renewal is released when believers take time away from their regular routines to meet with God alone in a few unhurried hours.
God’s invitation to such getaways is personal and persistent. He knows the rewards in store for those who choose the road less traveled.

God whispers in my ear, “Retreat.”

A New Vantage Point
Extended time away also renews my perspective on life. It’s easy to get tangled in the lopsided values and mismatched priorities of Western society.

Without continual reminders of eternity, I get sucked in and fall short of reflecting God’s counter-cultural, life-changing ways to neighbors, friends, and family. Time away strengthens my embrace of the radical aspects of faith like unconditional love, selfless generosity, and worry-free living.

Personal retreats also allow me to take inventory of my pain, my priorities, and my passions, providing God’s slant on these matters in exchange for my limited, misaligned ideas. The trade-off is satisfying and worthwhile.

God speaks to my heart, “Retreat.”

A World of Wonder
“Creation reveals the Creator,” my friend Cheryl often reminds me. Daily life has me living in a box. Four walls keep me dry and safe, but they shield me from the glories of God outside my door.

Pausing to enjoy the wonder of God’s world helps me rediscover the creative powers at His disposal. He Who flung the universe into being, He Who sculpted the bumblebee’s wings, and He Who orchestrates the chorus of critters is the same God who knows the intricacies of my thoughts and my dreams.

A Christian camp, conference center, or retreat center is a wonderful place to experience a personal retreat. Not only do these beautiful sites allow you to enjoy creation, but they also create space for rest. Cabin or lodge accommodations are often accompanied by meals prepared for you so you can maximize your time with God. Many feature hiking trails or even prayer walks designed to lead you in conversation with your Creator.

God shouts through the heavens, “Retreat!”

The rewards of personal retreat are great. The need is glaring. Getting away once a year to be quiet and alone with God creates a unique experience that nourishes the soul. Those few hours away allow me to pause, focusing attention off myself long enough to get a glimpse of God’s mighty hand and tender love.

In Mark 6:31, Jesus extends an invitation that we can claim today: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Brenda, an author and camping professional based in Indiana, has been leading retreats for 20 years. One of her greatest joys is watching her children grow in awe of the Creator and His handiwork.

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