Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Retreat into God

I am on a writing retreat. If you had asked me when I was in college majoring in English and cursing for every word to finish the assignments in my creative writing classes if I would ever willingly go on a writing retreat, I would have told you my becoming the star quarterback for Alabama was more likely.

I also thought the Christian church was a pile of hooey, so there's that.

I'm not the typical go on retreat type of priest. Some of my close friends love to go on silent retreats for 763 days, praying the hours, walking labyrinths, and reading St. Augustine one word at a time while meditating deeply.

I would rip my arm off by the second day.

But, I do realize the need for time away. Being in a helping profession (as clergy are) we are always the pantry for members of our congregations to find nourishment. They share their joys with us, they share their grief with us. They ask us for help. They help us in ministry. They appreciate, honor, and challenge our boundaries.

We offer ourselves to be emptied by those with whom we are in relationship. And it's not an endless supply. Our wells do indeed run dry and we find ourselves only able to offer stale crackers and a can of pureed pumpkin we bought for that pie we were planning to make a few Thanksgivings ago. We need time to restock, refill, renew, and refresh.

Thus, retreat.

Retreats are time away, time where the email does not get checked and the phone does not get answered and we are surrounded by people who want to nourish us. They are time to let our souls catch up with our bodies. Most retreats (if clergy are honest and not trying to out-holy each other) involve the prayerful activity of naps.

I tried for years to conform to the expectation of the prayerful, spiritual retreat at a monastery in silence.

They did not nourish me.

But a week away writing? To the much removed from creative writing classes me, that sounded great. A week with words, with critique groups and writing prompts, permission to blog, and discussions about why and how and when we write. A week saying prayers with other clergy, of laughing with other clergy, of just being a regular person and not the clergy. That is nourishing and filling.

And naps. Let's not forget naps.

When God implores us to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, I suspect She is saying something about the value of retreat, of drawing back from all the demands and expectations of our lives, and of calling God more deeply into ourselves and souls to restock the many gifts of the Spirit.

If you're a human, you need retreat time. If you're a clergy person, you need need need retreat time. Go on an art retreat. Hike the Appalachian Trail. Spend a week at a monastery (you can have my room). Find an island and sun on the beach. Ride horses. Spend time with God, with those who sustain you, and lavish yourself in the abundance.

Retreat into God, and let your soul be nourished to overflowing.


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