When the gridlock of your schedule is relentlessly controlling you, when your heart is beating against the prison walls of your enslavement to the task list, it is time to spend time with the Lord. Is it time to step away and follow the pattern of Jesus’ life? He sought times of quiet solitude. “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you (Mark 1:35-37).’” Just like us, He found the same press of the task list.
A separate time with God is a powerful longing in our hearts. We long for time in the open fields with grass blowing and blue sky stretching over us, with birds calling and green trees sighing. We wonder if such a gift of time will ever be for us. God is waiting for us, expecting us, and offering time of restoration.
A pulling away to spend time with God is an opportunity for spiritual formation. Living for Christ may mean adopting a certain style of life, where we take on spiritual practices that open us to the work of God in our lives. Choosing to live life in this way leads to ongoing dialogue with God that warms our hearts for friendship with Him.
The basic of the disciplined life is the need to begin again and again, knowing that even as the most perfected Christian we are always beginners, needing to live as repentant prodigals, because we know we are always squandering God’s gifts to us.
Perseverance will be necessary, along with a fundamental commitment to serve God over the long haul. This way of life is similar to marriage changing us over time. We must work over and over again to make clean breaks and new beginnings. It is an obedient life focused on becoming like Christ.
Taking a retreat is an opportunity to be formed spiritually in the tradition of Hebrews 12. “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he received,” (Hebrews 12:5-6). We forget that God is a good parent to us His children. He is educating and training us. We can tend to see God’s discipline as punishment not training us to live God’s holy best.
The spiritual life is a pattern of concrete actions that gently move us toward transformation in Christ. The disciplines in themselves are not transformative; it is God’s work of grace in us. To be transformed we must submit ourselves to God’s gentle rod of discipline and be willing to be transformed.
It seems impossible to set aside time for retreat. How many hours a day do we spend in company of people who wear us down? How much time do we spend worrying about things beyond our control? How much time do we spend searching for effectiveness? Jesus answers, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26).
Finding time to retreat is as difficult as finding time for prayer on any given day. What we are up against is not really the pressure of time and events, but the stubbornness of our hearts that will not yield to change. Setting aside a morning, a day, even a week for a spiritual retreat is one of the most strengthening experiences of our lives. We need to yield to God. Once we embrace the spiritual disciplines, we find ourselves carried away by the sea of grace. Giving way to the spiritual disciplines becomes a step toward freedom. The spiritual disciplines are stepping stones from our furious activity into God’s calm and peace. Are you ready to escape into the life of grace?