Yes, I’m headed back to sleep with a bunch of monks. This will be my third retreat at Mepkin Abbey a Monastery located in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. There a bunch of Trappist Monks reside and devote their entire lives to prayer, spiritual study, work, and hospitality. There I will find beautiful scenery, quiet places, and for a few days feel a million miles away from normal civilization.
I’m getting away for some much needed rest and refreshment. I’ve reached another one of those points where I just have to step away. As a non-stop pastor, chaplain, counselor, husband, and father of four young boys I can quickly find myself exhausted, burnout, and in need of being recharged. Physically, emotionally and for sure spiritually I hope to find healing. Sometimes, I just need to open God’s word and spend more moments in prayer. Then, there are times like now when I know I have to go sleep with a bunch of Monks.
In most sports, using your timeouts wisely is critical to winning a tough game. There are moments you have to use your timeout are things can quickly get out of hand. You might not only lose your momentum, but the entire game. We often find ourselves in the same position in life. Timeouts are necessary for us to catch our breath, settle down, and refocus for the season ahead.
Luke 5:16 says,“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
I believe Jesus was extremely effective in life because he knew how to use his timeouts wisely. He got away from the crowds early and often. He prayed all night when facing an extremely big decision. He understood that in order to hear God’s voice you have to seek God’s face. Many times in order to refocus and regroup we need way more than just a sermon or pep talk. Instead, what we need is a step away from the norm that allows us to focus deeply on God’s will for our life. Here are a few things I’ve found are critical to a great spiritual retreat.
#1: I NEED TO BE FREE OF ALL DISTRACTIONS
We live in a culture that is bombarded by social media, gadgets, and lots of other distractions. On this retreat, none of these things will be joining me. I will do my best to remove anything that might keep me from focusing on God. Seeing life through God’s eyes is often hindered by our own busyness, interruptions, and many distractions. I love social media so this is a huge deal for me to be away from television, internet, and my phone.
(Hebrews 12:1-2) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.”
#2:I NEED TIME TO BE REFRESHED, RENEWED, & REFOCUSED.
I typically need at least 2 days to unwind, and to allow God to redirect my heart. For me it takes at least a day to unclutter my mind and present thoughts. To rest, relax, and prepare myself for what God wants to show me. I will rise before daylight each day to spend time with God. I will take time to reflect on what is actually going on in my life at this time. Then I need time to process what God has impressed upon my heart. This is a process, not an event. Overall, I need time to connect and possibly reconnect with God on a more personal, deeper level. This doesn’t happen on my terms, but as I seek God on his terms.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”-Jeremiah 29:13
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me,and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24
#3: I HAVE TO BE STILL
Anyone that knows me knows that I am constantly on the go and having conversation with someone. When I get away I won’t have the interruption of television, internet, phone calls, obligations, crisis, or even people. My overall goal during my getaway is not to come back with some profound insight. My goal is to find “soul rest” which can only be found by putting all that is in my little hands in God’s big hands. I have to find peace in God’s presence, strength from God’s word, and direction from God’s will.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
Maybe you need to take a major timeout. You need to “Be still and know that He is God.” You need to seek God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will. And, You need to step away from the day to day grind for that to be possible. I pray you will understand as I do that we all have times where we have to go and sleep with a bunch of Monks.