Last week I took a spiritual retreat with Jesus. Some people might consider spending two days in a retreat center a waste of time. But not at all! In fact, at this point in my year, having experienced a very busy fall of ministry, and anticipating the Season of Advent, this was a timely reprieve. So what happened at my retreat? As I said to one of my elders, “You can get a lot done when you do nothing!” Now, of course I didn’t sit and do nothing. But I did slow things down considerably. I spent hours reading God’s Word and responding in prayer. I fasted for a time. I also sought guidance from a spiritual director. And I also read some devotional literature. One book in particular: Henri J. M. Nouwen’s, The Way of the Heart (HarperSanFrancisco, 1981), was especially significant to me. Now this isn’t the first time I’ve read this book, but perhaps it’s the first time that I really got it. Nouwen considers three basic spiritual disciplines to be essential for the minister: solitude, silence and prayer. As he writes in the Epilogue:
Solitude shows us the way to let our behavior be shaped not by the compulsions of the world by our new mind, the mind of Christ. Silence prevents us from being suffocated by our wordy world and teaches us to speak the Word of God. Finally, unceasing prayer gives solitude and silence their real meaning. . . . These disciplines will teach us to stand firm, to speak the words of salvation, and to approach the new millenium with hope, courage and confidence. (pp. 91-92, 94)
What a wonderful two days with my Lord! To be sure, I was glad to return to my family and community, but I felt a peace and joy on retreat that’s hard to leave behind. But happily I’ve found that when you spend considerable time with Jesus, you not only feel closer to him on the “mountain” (spiritual retreat) but also on the “plains” (daily life). As a result, I feel more rested. I’m less anxious. My heart is quieter. And I’m increasingly convinced of the need to practice the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life on a daily basis. But I’m also convinced of the need to go on an annual retreat. Care to join me?