Southwestern Airlines produced a line of funny commercials built around the theme “Wanna get away?” They are on to something. Sometimes we need to get away.
One of the reasons for a sabbatic leave like the one I currently enjoy stems from the word itself. Sabbatical comes from sabbat, or sabbath, the seventh day, a day of rest. We need time to rest, reflect, and replenish.
Activists like evangelicals and especially Baptists have a hard time getting away. I have a hard time unplugging. So far I have not unplugged a lot as I have a book due to a publisher soon which serves as the heart of the sabbatical. But in the later spring I will spend not a little time checked out to reflect, meditate, just to be in God’s presence, with no agenda.
The disciplines of meditation, silence, and solitude are not the same, but they are similar in that all involve quietness and disengagement from the busyness of our lives. Meditation in the Christian sense emphasizes obedience. As we meditate, we fill up our minds. This is different from emptying them, as in Eastern thought.
Eastern meditation focuses on emptying the mind. Christian meditation focuses on God and His Word; it is the ability to hear God’s voice and obey His word. How can we know God in an intimate way unless we learn to listen to him? The psalmist declared, “My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word” (Ps. 119:148). This is no syrupy sort of buddy-buddy relationship that dishonors the transcendence of God; on the contrary, we meditate upon him and his words in awe of the fact that he has condescended to us and desires intimacy with us.
In America we have a mountain called Rushmore! Consider the microwave, the Internet, fast food, E-mail, HOV lanes, podcasts, itunes, and smartphones. All of these things encourage us to speed up the pace. I love music, but music is beautiful only when it has rests to help you appreciate the melody. At times we need replenishment—physical, spiritual, emotional replenishment.
Christian meditation involves focusing on God—specifically on obedience and faithfulness. Our culture’s frenzied pace has infected the church. I confess this is one of my greatest struggles. I am a hyperactive, type A, driven person. Meditation is not the easiest thing for me. I often succumb to the theory that the person who is busiest is most important and, therefore, most spiritual. In our fast-paced culture, an emphasis on meditation is needed.
I encourage you to find a place of solitude, of refuge, from the busy world in which you live. Further, I challenge you to take a personal retreat, a day spent alone with God, at least annually, and better, several times a year. Take your Bible, a notebook and pen, and a bottle of water. If you have health issues take what you need medically. But do not take the needless things we tend to think we need. Leave your music, and discover the melody of God in silence. Leave your commentaries and devotional books, and meet Christ in the Scriptures. Leave your emails and texting, and simply write in a notebook your thoughts to God.
I had a class of church planters who were required to take a spiritual retreat for a day. One said that day saved his ministry. More than one said they had never spent to much time with God at once in their life, and it totally changed their perspective. Get off the ferris wheel of a busy line and meet with God. It just might change your life. And it may save it.
Charles Spurgeon was a busy man, but he understood the importance of stepping aside regularly for times of meditation:
Yet the best flame in the world needs renewing. I know not whether immortal spirits, like the angels, drink on the wing, and feed on some superior manna prepared in heaven for them; but the probability is that no created being, though immortal, is quite free from the necessity to receive from without sustenance for its strength. Certainly the flame of zeal in the renewed heart, however divine, must be continually fed with fresh fuel. Even the lamps of the sanctuary needed oil. Feed the flame, my brother. feed it frequently; feed it with holy thought and contemplation, especially with thought about your work, your motives in pursuing it, the design of it, the helps that are waiting for you, and the grand results of it if the Lord be with you.. . . . Think much also of the bliss of the sinner saved, and like holy Baxter derive rich arguments for earnestness from “the saints’ everlasting rest.” Go to the heavenly hills and gather fuel there; pile on the glorious logs of the wood of Lebanon, and the fire will burn freely and yield a sweet ¬perfume as each piece of choice cedar glows in the flame. There will be no fear of your being lethargic if you are continually familiar with eternal realities.
Above all, feed the flame with intimate fellowship with Christ. No man was ever cold in heart who lived with Jesus on such terms as John and Mary did of old, for he makes men’s hearts burn within them. I never met with a half-hearted preacher who was much in communion with the Lord Jesus.
Taken from my Evangelism Handbook.