Several years ago, the statement WWJD was all the rage. But I believe WWJD should be replaced by "What did Jesus do?" He held children, talked to strangers, asked difficult questions, went to parties … and disappeared regularly to be alone with his Father in prayer.
Getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life is a necessity for any woman-of-influence fighting on the front line. Jesus sometimes felt "winded and weary" (John 4:6, Mark 4:38). But his life revolved around the renewal and replenishment he received from his Father in quiet places off the beaten path.
Although exhaustion isn't a sin, not embracing the rhythms God created to replenish us is. Being tired is a result of the built-in limitations our limitless God chose to craft into our bodies. He wanted us to be people of rhythm—work and rest. Taking time to rest isn't just a break from what we do, it's a portal into discovering who we are.
So why not take a personal retreat and allow that to become a rhythm you embrace? It's guaranteed to make you a better Christian, mother, wife, woman.
Nervous about "What in the world would I do all day?" Here are some basics to get started.
Plan ahead. Pick a day five to ten weeks from now and invite a friend (it will be harder to pull out at the last minute). Ask a retreat center* if you could enjoy a quiet corner for three, five, or eight hours. Or find a city park or a quiet coffee house you enjoy. Circle the day in red.
Mentally prepare. Psalm 23 reminds us: "He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul." Personal retreat isn't about what we're going to do for God; it's about what he wants to do for us. I know of a gal who took a weekend retreat. The first day she prayed her little heart out. She thought it was an amazing time—and felt she'd prayed for hours. But when she looked at her watch, it had only been 20 minutes! She panicked and became stressed, not sure what she was going to do with the rest of the weekend, which can bring its own brand of exhaustion! So what are we to do? Focus on these three things:
Rest well. Take Jesus' words in Mark 6:31 to heart: "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." In other words, "Come and embrace the peace and quiet I long to give." This is easier said than done. We're used to going a million miles an hour. Learning to rest might be the hardest work of our lives. Don't give up. Take time to decompress. It isn't a day of work. Don't work through your prayer list, write a Bible study, or read a pile of books. Rest.
Remarkably, when we choose to rest we're participating in the very first thing God called holy (Genesis 2:3). Nap. Hike. Journal. Sing out loud. Sit. Linger. Lounge. Get outside. Watch a squirrel. Look for patterns in the clouds. Listen to the wind. Jean Pierre de Caussade (mid 1700s) called it the Sacrament of the Present Moment. I call it a taste of Abundant Life.
Listen carefully. The barrage of 21st century noise doesn't orient our souls to the voice of God, yet recognizing his voice is critical to our faith and well-being. My daughter Anna used to cradle my face in her hands and say, "Mommy, I like it when you listen with your eyes."
One author wrote it this way: "God whispers in your soul and speaks to your mind. Sometimes when you don't have time to listen, he has to throw a brick. It's your choice: Listen to the whisper. Wait for the brick."
Surrender all. Many of us surrender a portion of our salaries and talents—but rarely our time. We know how to work for God. But we don't know how to meet with God—quietly surrendered and ready to receive. Wave the white flag. Come out with your hands lifted high. When we discover our resting place in God, he gains full access to our hearts.
Embark. When the day arrives, pack your Bible, journal, pillow, favorite snacks, music, and a book. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Travel light. Dress so you can be outside. On the way, enjoy your friend's camaraderie, but when you arrive go your separate ways. Remind yourself that the hard work of rest is the holy work of God.
What did Jesus do—WDJD? He went away often to be alone with his Father. Now go and do likewise.
* Other ideas: Ask your pastor. Look in the Yellow Pages under camps or retreat centers. Or go to www.ccca.org (Christian Camp and Conference Association) and search out the retreat centers in your state. Read more tips on rhythm and rest from Brenda Jank on her blog, run hard. rest well.