Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
In the last several days, we have been considering the imperative in Ephesians 5:15, “Be very careful, then, how you live.” I have suggested some very practical ways to do this: stopping to think, putting down your tech, and setting aside time each day to take stock of your life.
Today, I want to recommend yet another way you can examine your life carefully. It’s simple in concept: Go on a retreat. Now, let me say that I’m not talking about what Christians sometimes call retreats. On many of our so-called “retreats” we get away from ordinary life, which is great, but then we fill our time with tons of activities. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have come back from a “retreat” more exhausted than before the “retreat.” Sure, I had lots of fun and engaged in a variety of spiritual exercises, but the pace was anything but restful and the reality anything but reflective.
So, let me be clear. When I say “Go on a retreat” I’m thinking of a time away that offers a good bit of freedom, a time that is structured to help you step back from your life and prayerfully examine carefully how you’re living. Your retreat might be something you do alone, though it’s sometimes hard to truly retreat without others to encourage you. You might choose to join some kind of organized retreat or to get away with a few friends who will share the experience with you.
My friend and Fuller colleague, Brian Wallace, did a study several years ago of people who were flourishing in their lives, including their work. Brian found that, among other things, these folks had established in their lives a pattern of regular retreat. Sure, the specifics differed person by person. But every person made it a priority to withdraw from ordinary life for an extended time in order to rest, reflect, and be renewed.
Now, I realize that some who are reading this devotion will feel as if I’m asking the impossible. Perhaps you are a parent with young children. Perhaps your work already demands more time than you have. The notion of getting away for a retreat might sound wonderful, but it also sounds crazy in this season of life. You just don’t see how it’s possible.
If you can relate to what I’ve just written, let me say that I understand. There have been seasons in my life when retreating seemed beyond the realm of possibility. And I have known many others in a similar predicament. For four years I was the Senior Director of Laity Lodge, an amazing adult retreat center in the Texas Hill Country. I led dozens of retreats there, often for people who had to work very hard to get a break from their busy lives. Yet, with careful planning and the help of friends or family, they finally were free to retreat. Those for whom retreating required a major commitment were often those who got the most out of their time away. (Today’s picture is one of my photos of Laity Lodge.)
While I’m talking about Laity Lodge, let me mention that they are still doing amazing retreats throughout the year. You can learn more here. If you can make it to a retreat there, you will love it. I promise. One of the reasons for this is that retreats at Laity Lodge are not over-planned. There is plenty of time for folks to rest and be revitalized. Plus, the Lodge encourages retreatants to take the time they need, even if it means showing up late for a meal or missing a meeting on the schedule. For over fifty years, Laity Lodge has been a place for people to experience genuine, restorative retreat.
Of course, Laity Lodge isn’t the only place where such retreats are possible. No matter where you live, you’ll find options not too far away. And, if there isn’t an official retreat center nearby, you might want to get away on your own or with a couple of brothers or sisters in Christ. You could do a mini-retreat in a local park or in a quiet place in a nearby church. The point is to get distance from the routine of daily life in order to gain perspective, to carefully examine how you are living, to lay out your life before the Lord, and to listen to what God has to say to you and to receive a fresh infusion of his grace.
Something to Think About:
Can you think of a time in your life when in a retreat setting you were able to see your life more clearly and to hear the voice of the Lord more accurately?
When was the last time you had such a retreat?
When might you be able to get away again?
Something to Do:
Make plans to go on a retreat. It could even be a local, half-day retreat. Depending on what’s going on in your life, you might need to plan quite some time in advance. Perhaps you already know an excellent retreat center. If not, do some online research or talk with a wise friend. Your pastor might have a helpful suggestion. If you’re in a small group, talk with others and see if you might do a retreat together.
Gracious God, I know how much I need time away, time to rest, to unwind, to be quiet, to reflect, and to listen to you. Forgive me for filling my life with so much activity that I often have no time for an extended break. Help me, Lord, to set aside enough time away from my daily routine that I might be able to pay attention to how I’m living even as I pay attention to what you want to say to me. Amen.