Every year my Mom invites me on the same annual retreat. And every year there’s a long list of reasons why I can’t go. Running two businesses, raising three kids, homeschooling, etc. have all prevented me from joining her in the past…but not this year. This year I knew it was time to block out a weekend and step away from the responsibilities and To Do’s that would still be there on Monday. This year this Mama was worn-down, wiped-out and full-blown weary. A retreat was the perfect remedy.
I arrived at the retreat center distracted by things going on at home. I wondered if I’d made the right decision to come. But after repeated reassurance from my husband that all was well, I slowly forced myself to soak in my surroundings and fully accept this precious gift of time and space. Once I disengaged from the home front and stopped trying to mentally be in two places at once, I was able to plant my mind and both my feet firmly in the present. And I felt myself exhale for the first time in a long time.
I was ready to retreat.
Retreat has two meanings. To run from danger as an act of survival or to find sanctuary. I didn’t realize until this weekend how desperately and unapologetically we need to do both.
Many of us are so weary that we’re no longer thriving in our roles. We’re merely surviving. We weren’t created to exist in a constant state of survival mode, and doing so puts us face-to-face with very real danger: burnout, or worse, apathy. These two vices threaten our effectiveness and leave us too tired or worn down to even care. Burnout and apathy rob us of our compassion and empathy for others, leaving us selfish and empty. When survival mode becomes our norm, we find ourselves catapulted toward the very dangers we should be retreating from.
We need to run from danger.
We NEED to retreat.
It is healthy and necessary to do so.
The gift of retreat—that time set aside to regroup, refocus, and refresh—is perhaps one of the greatest weapons for slaying the modern-day dangers that threaten our effectiveness. Just as we need to set aside time each day to feed and rest our bodies, it is critical for us to also set aside regular time to feed and rest our souls. Our days are punctuated by the eat and sleep cycles that our bodies require, and yet we barely punctuate our year with nourishing and restful times for our souls.
We are not machines. We are not human doings.
It takes regularly disentangling ourselves from the busyness of life to be reminded of our purpose and priorities. We need to fine-tune our perspective every 3,000 miles. These things do not take place in the midst of noise and work and the demands of everyday life. These things happen in the safety and serenity of asylum. They happen in moments of retreat.
In the pause of retreat, we are refueled and strengthened. We are filled so that we can go into the world, ready to pour ourselves out for the sake of others. Our effectiveness is sharpened, and we have something to offer. We can once again give.
We leave retreat strong and ready to advance.