In my last blog post, I mentioned the need to make sure we care for ourselves, and gave some ideas on how you and I might go about doing that, one of which was taking a personal retreat day. Today, I want to offer some tips on how to go about doing one.
What is a retreat? John Coe, a professor of mine from Talbot Seminary, defined a retreat as follows: “The setting aside of an extraordinary amount of time to do something for the sake of your soul at an intensity and duration that your ordinary lifestyle does not permit.” At its core, a retreat is when we set aside time to minister to our souls through spending time in conversation with our living God.
First, a word of caution: In taking a personal retreat, whether it is for a day or a few days, you and I will face the temptation to manufacture an experience to make God do something we want. For instance, many times, we take a retreat because we are facing a big decision, or we want God to show us what’s next. But God may have other plans. The primary point of taking a retreat is to watch and listen for what God is doing in your life.
In terms of planning a personal retreat day, here are some tips/suggestions:
• Pick a day and place. Chances are you will need to go somewhere different than your home or your office. In terms of a place, find a place that will minister to your soul—the ocean, the mountains, a monastery. (Many monasteries allow individuals to come and do personal retreats.)
• Before the day, set aside some time to plan your retreat in prayer. While God may have other plans once you get on the retreat, do make a plan, as best you are able. The plan should not be to read a book or busy yourself with planning.
As you plan, be in prayer with God about what you want this retreat to accomplish. What are your expectations? What do you hope God will do?
• Be gentle on yourself. Be wary of putting too many expectations on what you want this day to be about. The truth is, you might need to take a four hour nap, and if that is how God leads, do it. With God, allow your body and soul to take the lead, and not what you think you should do.
• Make sure to take what you need for yourself. Make sure to bring your Bible (and not the Bible on your cellphone), bring something to jot thoughts down (even if you are not one who typically journals), snacks, food and water.
• Let the people in your life know where you will be. Do your best to have your cell phone off. If you need to check in with someone, agree upon a time when you will do so before the day.
• Ask a few key people in your life to pray for you during the day.
• Find a trusted friend whom you can debrief with after your retreat day.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus intentionally got away to spend time with his Father. There were so many demands on him, people telling him what he should or shouldn’t be doing. In the midst of the chaos, he knew that without those focused times with his Father, he would be tempted to succumb to those pressures. As ministry leaders, we face the same pressures and temptations. We need to carve out time to listen to our Father, listen for what he wants to do in us and through us.