When’s the last time you received an invitation? Maybe it was to attend a wedding, a birthday party, or a family event. Invitations are exciting because there is something going on and we have been thought of to be part of that event. Invitations mean we are important to someone and they request our presence. Invitations are requests, not demands. They come with an RSVP and we have a choice to decide whether to attend. Just having the freedom to say yes or no is part of a good invitation. Now I am a realist and there are certainly invitations you may receive where you really don’t feel there is a choice! But in general invitations give us an opportunity to say yes or no to be in the presence of someone who really wants us there.
I recently read a book by Ruth Haley Barton called “Invitation to Retreat”. She does such a masterful job describing the importance of taking spiritual retreats and how all of us have been extended an invitation to take retreat with Jesus. There are several examples of this in scripture, including the following invitation to His disciples:
“Come away to a deserted place . . . and rest a while” (Mark 6:30)
Jesus invites you and me to get away from the craziness of life to enjoy a time of rest. Remember the two elements of an invitation? We have a choice and we are wanted. Wow! Jesus extends to us an invitation to be with Him because He wants to spend time with us. He doesn’t guilt us or force us in any way. He simply requests, “Come away with me for a while. I would like to spend some time with you.”
The other part of the invitation from Jesus that is intriguing is rest. I don’t know about you, but I have been part of many retreats over the years and so often they can be anything but restful. Whether it is a business or church retreat, so often our time is filled with planning, information gathering, problem-solving, or lots of programmed events to make sure we get the most out of our time.
I like how Ruth Haley Barton defines retreat: “Retreat in the context of the spiritual life is an extended time apart for the purpose of being with God and giving God our full and undivided attention”
A Strategic Decision
We are in a spiritual battle. Sometimes we are in the battle a long time. Without rest, we can become battle-weary and subject to the enemies lies and attacks. Retreat is an important strategy in the spiritual battle. Jesus did this often, He would minister, then retreat; advance and withdraw. Ruth Haley Barton describes the purpose of retreat beautifully as “an opportunity to rest the troops and tend to their wounds, to stop the enemy’s momentum, or to step back to get a panoramic view of what’s going and set new strategies.” When we retreat, we rest in Jesus, we allow Jesus to tend to our wounds, we review where we have been, and we seek guidance on where we should go. We get perspective. We make sure we are equipped with the full armor of God and then we can proceed back into battle.
Accepting the Invitation
I am ready for a retreat. I have begun a two-year program of spiritual formation with the Renovaré Institute. Four weeklong retreats are part of this program. Next week is our first retreat. I will be meeting with 44 other believers from around the world in Hickory, North Carolina, an hour northwest of Charlotte.
Below, you can see the tentative schedule of what this week will look like. Included in the schedule is a 24-hour silent retreat from Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon.
I feel like a little kid going off to camp. I am excited but also a little nervous. What will it be like? Will the kids like me? What if everyone else is way more spiritual than I? What if I do not hear God speak? Despite the nerves, I am excited to accept Jesus’ invitation to come and rest a while. Would you pray for me? Pray that I let go of my human reservations and place my life wholeheartedly in Jesus presence next week. I am sure I will have some stories to share when I return on Sunday, September 22.