Going away on a retreat by myself was definitely not my idea. In fact, had you offered it to me, I likely would have refused. However, part of my seminary assignment for the semester was to take a seclusion retreat where I would be alone with the Lord. Just Him and I. No people. No agenda. No activities. Just Jesus.
I am ashamed to admit that He didn’t feel like enough.
I am someone that is constantly surrounded by people. Lots of people. And I like it that way. If I am alone for too long, I get anxious and restless because it’s my nature to serve and love my people in abundance. So when I read this assignment at the beginning of the semester, I immediately started thinking of excuses of why I wouldn’t be able to complete it. Thinking that quarantine was the perfect excuse, I was surprised that my spiritual director didn’t agree.
You can do this. You won’t be around anyone. It’s perfectly safe.
Ugh. So much for blaming everything on COVID.
Realizing that if I didn’t complete this retreat, I wouldn’t pass the class, I surrendered to the idea of it. I half heartedly mentioned it to a friend as a prayer request because I knew my heart wasn’t in the right place. Instead of agreeing with me that it was going to be hard, my friend gave me the name of a ministry that houses missionaries and pastors for spiritual retreats. Along with the referral came an encouragement that I needed to do this.
I reluctantly sent an email and forgot about it, likely because someone needed me for something else. A couple weeks later, a response from the ministry came, along with details about a place they had lined up for me. All I needed to do was confirm my dates. There was no cost. A little surprised, I responded with some tentative dates, and was shocked that a response email came immediately. It was all set, I was going, all I had to do was pack.
As I stepped foot onto the plane, I prayed a silent prayer. “Ok, Lord. I’m doing this. Whatever you want.”
In some ways, I reminded myself of my teenager when I pull her away for a family vacation, knowing she is capable of having fun without her phone and friends. My attitude reflected hers, and I have to think that God sometimes feels like the parent of a teenager when it comes to my attitude. And I also know that He is the perfect parent that knows what I need before I do.
After a very long day of travel that included not 1, but 2 different airplane mechanical issues that required deplaning and delays, zero uber cars, zero rental cars, and a desperate prayer outside of the airport, I finally made it to the retreat home after my driver helped me find the house that was actually nowhere to be found on the GPS. I was exhausted. And hungry. And just coming to the realization that Uber Eats and Door Dash do not deliver to the middle of nowhere, even though I checked before leaving home.
As I walked inside, tears sprung to my eyes as I found waiting for me a basket of food, a welcoming note, and words that I desperately needed to hear.
“Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest awhile.” Mark 6:31
Rest was exactly what I needed. After making myself a cup of tea and taking a quick shower, I climbed into bed and slept for 12 hours. When I woke up in the morning, I was overwhelmed by what I saw. In the dark and exhausted hours of the night, I did not pay attention to the beauty of the home I was in. My room, covered in windows, looked out to a beautiful river, between the towering oaks covered in Spanish moss. I love oaks covered in Spanish Moss. Love them. And no one knew that. But God did. As I listened to the waves crashing on the sides of the river, watching the moss sway in the breeze, I felt the Lord say, “I love you.” Tears sprang to my eyes as I realized what I told everyone was really true. He is a good, good father. I didn’t want to move from this place. My comfortable bed, with a beautiful view, overwhelmed by the beauty of what was surrounding me.
Rest. Just rest.
I knew in that moment that the Lord created this space, this time, for me to just rest in His presence. And I wasn’t anxious, or bored, or sad. But I was tired. Exhausted actually. I am always pouring myself out for others and this was God’s way of taking me gently by the hand, and giving me space to just be His.
I stayed in bed all day, only getting up to open the door for the grocery delivery of some of my favorite foods. I don’t know the last time I stayed in bed all day, it had been too long to remember.
I am so thankful for the gift of rest, and for the Father who knows what we need. I am also thankful for people who serve the body of Christ with their gift of hospitality. The truth is, I needed rest. I needed time away to listen to all the things I am normally too busy to hear.
You are loved. You are cherished. And you are Mine.
Thank you Father.