The scenery turned from concrete to cornfields as I reluctantly made my way to a retreat center 30 miles from home. Is this really going to be worth it? I questioned the value of taking a day of personal retreat when my calendar boasted little breathing room and my desk resembled the haystacks I was passing on these lonely country roads.
I was working at a church on the outskirts of Chicago. The senior pastor had recently mandated a series of monthly personal retreats for all staff members. My hungry heart eyed the potential of a few quiet hours. I was acutely aware of the gaps forming in my own spiritual growth, but I was strangely anxious, fearful of my inability to attend to the quiet things of God for that length of time. I let out a fair share of frustrated sighs as I overloaded other days to carve out this day of rest.
Pastor Ficken shared three words of encouragement with me on the morning of my departure.
Twelve years later I cannot recall what specifically happened that day of retreat—except that I wanted to return. And I did, again and again. Nourished from these face-to-face encounters with the Almighty, I have been able to weather the challenges of a growing ministry, the loss of two children, the birth of a child with Spina Bifida, and the long goodbye to my mom, who died of Alzheimer's.
Over time I noticed two specific gifts that regularly emerged from my private encounters with the Lord: stillness and rest. Together, these two gifts can replenish our souls, restore a sense of God's holiness and sovereignty, and strengthen our resolve to serve Him.1