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Exclusive Excerpt: Invitation to Retreat: The Gift & Necessity of Time Away with God

It is impossible to overstate the level of exhaustion many of us are experiencing these days and how dangerous it is. Christian busyness layered on top of the stresses of life in our culture, along with the more subtle sources of exhaustion that are harder to identify, means we are all at risk of drifting into dangerous levels of exhaustion before we even know it!

There are reasons why we end up as tired as we are, and one of the keys to being able to enter into retreat in a restorative way is to note the sources of our exhaustion so we can rest at the source. I’ve already noted two sources of exhaustion that plague most, if not all, of us—the exhaustion that comes from always being plugged in and available, and the exhaustion that comes from trying so hard and juggling so much. But other more subtle sources of exhaustion plague serious Christians these days, and it is important that we become aware of them. Then, rather than exhausting ourselves further by trying to figure out how to fix it on our own, on retreat we can ask God, “What are we going to do about that?” and listen for what God has to say.

Practicing retreat is one way to turn from our willfulness and say yes to God’s invitation to rest—an invitation that is always there for us. It is an opportunity to rest, not just physically but also to attend to the sources of our exhaustion, allowing God to lead us into the kind of rest that corresponds specifically to those sources. Thomas Merton asserts, Some of us need to discover that we will not begin to live more fully until we have the courage to do and see and taste and experience much less than usual. . . . There are times when in order to keep ourselves in existence at all we simply have to sit back for a while and do nothing. And for a man who has let himself be drawn completely out of himself by his activity, nothing is more difficult than to sit still and rest, doing nothing at all. The very act of resting is the hardest and most courageous act he can perform.

Retreat as a spiritual practice is not a vacation; it is not a day at the spa or on the golf course. It
is coming home to ourselves in God’s presence and resting there. God is waiting for us, continuing to hold out to us the invitation to rest. The only question is, will we say yes or will we keep running the other way?

Preparing for retreat or while on retreat. With the Holy Spirit as your guide, prayerfully review the sources of exhaustion described in this chapter.
 functioning out of an inordinate sense of ought and should
 finding it difficult or even humiliating to receive help from others
 living more as a performer than the person God created me to be
 few or no boundaries on my service and availability to others
 always feeling I should be doing more because there is always more to do
 carrying the burden of unhealed wounds—sadness, unresolved tension, toxicity in relationships
 information overload
 my own willfulness

Which resonate most deeply with you?

Take time to journal about what you are seeing and knowing. How can you structure your retreat time or enter into and engage in retreat time in such a way that you can rest at the source(s) of your exhaustion? You too may need a spiritual director or a spiritual friend to help you get in touch with the sources of your exhaustion and to support you in seeking God’s wisdom for attending to these sources.

*Adapted from Invitation to Retreat by Ruth Haley Barton. Copyright (c) 2018 by Ruth Haley
Barton. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.

*Grab it here:

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Matt 11:28-30

The Message

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

The Passion Translation

28 “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to Me.[o] I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.[p] 29 Simply join your life with Mine.[q] Learn My ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle,[r] humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in Me.[s] 30 For all that I require of you will be pleasant[t] and easy to bear.”[u]

  1. Matthew 11:28 Many times Jesus said, “Come after (follow) me,” but only here does he say, “Come to me.” See Ex. 33:14; Matt. 23:4.
  2. Matthew 11:28 As translated from the Aramaic.
  3. Matthew 11:29 Or “Bend your neck to my yoke.” The metaphor of a yoke is that it joins two animals to work as one. It is not simply work or toil that is the focus here, but union with Christ.
  4. Matthew 11:29 The Aramaic is “tranquil” or “peaceful.”
  5. Matthew 11:29 As translated from the Hebrew Matthew. The Aramaic could be translated “Come to me and I will cheer [refresh] you. I am cheerful [refreshing] and humble in heart, and you will find cheer [refreshing] for your soul.”
  6. Matthew 11:30 Or “kind” (or “delightful”).
  7. Matthew 11:30 See Ps. 55:22.

Grateful for these insights~

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