In a previous post, we explored the discipline of retreat as an important way to learn to live like Jesus. If you are like me, you might be asking a question like: what do we do on a retreat? Even though retreat isn’t to be a heavily scheduled event, there is that part of me and maybe you that still would like some structure and wisdom on conducting a retreat.
I’d like to share an illustration that I learned in the last year that has been extremely helpful to me in how I prepare for and a conduct a time of retreat. The illustration is called the “The Retreat House”. This was from a talk given by Trevor Hudson at our Renovaré Institute retreat. Below is a picture of the illustration that I drew based on his talk.
As you think about going on a retreat, one of the things you think about is where do I go for this retreat? A place of retreat can be anywhere, it does not have to be a physical house, it can be a park, a room, a church… But no matter where you physically chose to go, we are entering either a physical or a metaphorical retreat house. So stop and think for a moment of the idea of entering a retreat house. What might that be like?
The Road to the Retreat House
At the very bottom of the picture is a road. This road marks the path you have taken to get to the retreat house. As we pull up to the house, we get out of our vehicle, walk up to the front porch and open the door. The door is unlocked because the owner of the house has been waiting for you. As we step into the house, we are bringing all of ourselves into the house. We bring our past experiences, what we are currently dealing with, our brokenness and pain, our joys and desires. It is good just to know that we are entering a place where we can bring all of ourselves without any fear or reservation. The Retreat House is a perfectly safe place to be.
We may come to the house with lots of questions? We may come with a need for life direction. We may come because we desperately need some rest. We may come because we desire to sit in the presence of God. There are many reasons to come to the house. Whatever reason you may have in coming, God awaits you with open arms as you enter the house.
Foundation of Community
You will notice that the foundation of the house is labeled community. The Retreat House is not a lonely place. It is not a place to escape and hide. In it, you will find community. First and foremost you will experience the community of the Trinity. The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit will be with you throughout the retreat. In some cases you may decide to do a retreat with other people. This is what I did with Renovaré. Even in our day of silence, we did so in community. You may also envision the idea of being on retreat with the that great “cloud of witnesses” who are cheering you on as you enter this sacred place and time.
Two Walls of the Retreat House
Wall of Openness
The Retreat House is supported by two walls. These walls represent two attitudes or dispositions that we should have as we spend our time on retreat.
1. Wall of Openness
The first attitude is openness. We come with an openness to God. As I mentioned in the previous blog, I had started preparing for a retreat and it was all about my agenda. As I was driving toward the “retreat house”, God helped me let go of my agenda and to be open to what He wanted to do with me. We are such planner and control freaks, having an attitude of openness can be challenging but as we learn to let go and trust God, we are then exhibiting an attitude that is poised to be with God.
Openness is vital because we will be tempted to close off. To open up our lives and peer more deeply in them can be a little unsettling and even scary. We will also be tempted to by distractions Along with letting go of our agenda, we must also prepared for distractions that will pull us a way from the purpose for why we came to retreat in the first place. My mind can definitely wander. Two things I have found helpful when I catch myself in distraction. First, I am kind to myself. I do not beat myself up for being distracted nor do I give the enemy a foothold to lie to me. I simply reorient my thinking back to God. Second, a way that helps me reorient back to God is to take a few deep breaths. As I do, I notice my breathing and thank God for the gift of life I am experiencing in the moment as I breathe.
2. Wall of Courage
At first you may wonder why courage? If the retreat house is safe, why would I need to have an attitude of courage? But when you think about it, on retreat you might be faced with things that will require courage. You may need face yourself, the struggles you are experiencing, the insecurities you may feel. You may sense God calling you more deeply and to take steps which may seem difficult. Many of us have a distorted picture of God so it may take courage to sit in the presence of God and to allow Him to heal your picture of Him and learn to receive His love. It takes great courage to enter the Retreat House because it is a place that you enter with the intentionality to be with the God of the Universe. Trevor made this comment: “Solitude is the furnace of transformation”. If we just want a vacation, we can go to the beach or go hike in the mountains. But when we enter the Retreat House, we enter with the expectation of having experienced the transforming power of Jesus. It does take courage!
When people come to my office for counseling, stepping into the office takes great courage. I like to think of my office as a retreat house for those with whom I visit. These are some of the most courageous people I have met as they open their lives to God and experience His transforming power.
We are have covered just a portion of the Retreat House so far, but this is enough info for one post. Lets take a few minutes to let what we have discussed so far help us as we ponder the invitation to retreat.
- The Road to Retreat: give some thought to your life. Is there anything in particular as you walk up to the door of the retreat house that you are bringing into the house. It’s ok if you can’t think of anything. Maybe you are just super excited to come.
- The Wall of Openness: how do you feel about your attitude of openness? Is there anything you are aware that is a normal reaction you have that typically closes you off from others or that causes you to tend to withdraw? What would be a good strategy for you to help deal with any distractions that may come your way while on retreat?
- The Wall of Courage: Courage is a choice. Brené Brown describes it this way: “you can choose courage, or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.” Certainly, the Retreat House can be a place of comfort, but you may also be faced with some things that may feel uncomfortable. Choose the courageous path of spiritual transformation.
I love the Message translation of Luke 8:48 as Jesus speaks to the woman who touched His garment: “Daughter, you took a risk trusting me, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed!” When we enter the Retreat House, we are reaching out to Jesus for healing and wholeness!
In the next post we will explore the covering of the house and some of the contents of the house.