Returning from a short hike, Pete found his wife, Jenny, relaxing on a bench. He came up behind her and gently massaged her neck.
After awhile Jenny flicked a pile of acorns off the bench and motioned for Pete to join her.
"How's it going?" asked Jenny. Pete and Jenny were on their fourth personal retreat as a couple.
"I'm wrestling," he admitted. "I keep praying for Dad, but I feel like a broken record." Pete's dad was recently diagnosed with cancer, and it didn't look good. The couple talked for a while then walked down to the lake. Over the last few years it had become a favorite place to pray. After a picnic lunch, they each went their own way, but agreed to meet again at 5:00.
Pete and Jenny have discovered the rest, renewal, and strength that comes from taking a couple's spiritual retreat.
As couples, we share bank accounts, bedrooms, and Saturday morning breakfast, but the momentum of everyday life often short circuits our attention to God's presence. There's a natural drift from intimacy to isolation within marriage. Unless attended to, this drift invades all areas of our relationship, including our spiritual lives.
Just getting away from our everyday responsibilities is a great first step to connecting more powerfully with God and our spouse. But once we're away, it's important to enjoy activities that are restful and refreshing, not as an end to themselves, but as a means of quieting ourselves before God.
When many people hear the words couple's spiritual retreat, though, they imagine a couple spending all day together reading a Bible and praying for hours on end, fasting, and singing "Kumbaya" around a campfire. Understandably, this image doesn't bring tingly feelings of anticipation and warmth.
But wouldn't it be great to design a getaway that brings you closer to each other and to God—without the strict scheduling that comes with spiritual expectations of "revival"?
Finding God differently
Pete and Jenny's first retreat ended in disaster. With mismatched expectations, tension bubbled to the surface by the end of the day.
"Despite my best intentions, I blew it," said Jenny. "I actually made a schedule. I wanted us to read a book together, and then take a long hike. My expectations for the day were huge—and all mine: we'd read, pray, and have long talks. I thought Pete would love it."
"She didn't get it," Pete chimed in. "The day was supposed to be about freedom to meet with God alone and together, to focus on the things that really matter in a way that was good for both of us. I was frustrated by midday because it was all about what she envisioned, and when I disagreed with her schedule, I felt she was judging me to be 'less spiritually motivated.' The camp has kayaks, and I was looking forward to trying one out. My best prayer time happens when I'm moving, not sitting. But because kayaking wasn't in her plan, I couldn't win."