(1): an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable
(2): the usually forced withdrawal of troops from an enemy or from an advanced position
(3): a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director
When’s the last time you withdrew from a difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable situation?
What would it take for you to seek cover instead of seeking success?
Americans often view those who retreat as weak or cowardly. Whether at home, work, or on the campaign trail, most battles appear to be won by the participant who is stronger, better equipped, and able to endure.
There’s precedent for this in the Christian life too. But, thankfully there’s also room to retreat. Consider Christ, who often went off to a lonely place to pray—once for an entire month!
While a junior at Gordon College, I participated in La Vida (“The Life”), a two week hiking and camping journey through the Adirondack Mountains. Schlepping through rugged, mountainous terrain with a sixty pound pack provides plenty of opportunity to confront difficult, dangerous, and disagreeable situations. It also requires strength, equipment, and endurance.
However, one of the most powerful lessons I learned during those two weeks was the necessity for physical, spiritual, and mental rest—whether sitting quietly under the night sky during two days of intentional isolation or making time to dive into a mountain lake.
Two decades later, I find that if I don’t make rest a priority, life quickly becomes a forced slog rather than an invigorating hike, and I’m usually too disagreeable to enjoy the view.
When facing obstacles, I tend to charge ahead rather than seek cover. However, to honor the whole person God created me to be, I am working to prioritize rest.
So, last weekend, my husband, Dana, and I climbed in the van and headed up the coast on Route 1. Three hours later, we arrived in Southwest Harbor, the quite side of Mount Desert Island, for our second annual retreat run by CFO, “Camps Farthest Out.” While there we joined about forty others for a time of prayer, teaching, relaxation, and fun at one of the prettiest and oldest inns in Maine.
Acadia CFO isn’t the only one I’ve attended. Growing up in Oregon, I often sat in the back of our green Datsun pick-up while my mother made our annual pilgrimage to CFO camps in Oregon, California, Washington, and once even Canada! These experiences, based in the outdoors and run by an assortment of thought-provoking teachers, led me to an early faith that God was present and loving and listening—something that’s easy to forget in the mad schedule of modern life.
I also learned that sometimes it’s better to withdraw than to push ahead, better to seek cover than seek to keep going. Too often we equate “retreat” with failure. But Webster’s offers no such association.
I came home from Southwest Harbor with a new prayer to start each day, “Lord, what is your agenda for me today?” So simple. Yet, when I practice it I feel prepared.
My day isn’t controlled by events or by the circuitous pattern of stars or whether my plans succeed or fail. According to Scripture, neither is yours. So, why not start each day by asking for direction? Some days I find the plan is simply to withdraw, regroup, and rest.
Not surprising from the One who made the Sabbath.
“And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while,” Mark 6:31.
Where do you find rest?