Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Retreat, part 6: A Deeper Look

Spiritual retreats like the one I participated in last week provide an ideal time for growth.  The environment of a retreat setting is very fertile.  It is possible to "unplug" from the daily grind and focus in on areas you want to grow in.  Without e-mails to check or phone calls to answer or meals to cook or homework to do, you can devote all you attention towards G-d and spiritual disciplines.  After one particularly fruitful morning in the large chapel in the Mother house, I wrote this in my journal (one advantage of typing my journal is I can copy-paste when there are things I want to share) :
"If I were not reformed, I think I would  like to be a nun.  I just spent close to an hour in the big chapel, praying through part of psalm 19. [The link wasn't in my journal...I wrote out the section, but I wanted to save space here] It was so peaceful, so calm, so centering, just to go through that over and over again as I sat on my knees, my hands resting on the pew in front of me.  G-d is good, so very very good.  I feel like I could feast on His word all day.  I can't get enough. I just spent an hour with it, with one small paragraph, part of a Psalm, and yet I hunger for more.  The hunger in my heart for more of his word is as great as the hunger in my stomach for lunch.  I feel like a beggar who has stumbled on a feast, a feast she has known about the entire time but neglected to really enjoy, to really consume.  Now that I have sat at the table, I never want to leave it.  I don't want to go back to the lazy life of seminary, where I go to class and eat my meals and talk with my friends, but forget to really feast on the Word.  I grab a snack every now and then, even daily at time, but it is nothing compared to the feast that I had this morning."
When I wrote that I really meant it (okay, maybe not the part about being a nun...I want to get married and have children too badly for that to be a realistic possibility).  But I really meant it about feasting on the Word, about not wanting to go back to the "lazy life of seminary".  I sat to write this post today, I looked back over this last section of the week.  We got home from the retreat on Friday.  It's Wednesday.  My brain says that means I've been home for 5 or so days (it's been a long one). Saturday was a good day.  I started off with some good time in the Word.  Sunday was decent.  I got to worship with the body. Monday? yeah, not so much.  Tuesday? well, I did go to chapel.  Today? I taught Kingdom Kids the Christmas story, that must count for something...
Somewhere, between the retreat and real life, I lost my follow through.  It's harder to thrive, to really grow in the real world.  It was easy to commit to making time in the Word a bigger priority while I was at the retreat.  It was easier to practice spiritual disciplines while hanging out with a bunch of like-minded people at a convent.  It actually reminds me of a song (it's been awhile since I've put music up here). The song is by Casting Crowns and called "The Altar and the Door".   One line of the chorus goes "I try but this time, Jesus, how can I be sure I will not lose my follow through, between the altar and the door".  Full lyrics are here and this is YouTube video for those of you who would rather listen (it is captioned).
It's one of the reasons community is important.  The Church (as in the body of Christ, not the building where one worships) is what supports you and keeps you going between times. It's what holds you up when you don't have enough resolve to follow through on your own.  It's what calls you out when you start to slip back into old habits.
For me, that was one of the highlights of the retreat - getting to build new relationships and strengthen existing relationships. It meant some tough conversations, lots of stories, lots of laughs and even some tears.  But that is all part of a community that isn't going anywhere. A community that is going to be there through the highs and through the lows. 
And that my friends, concludes my immediate reflections on the spiritual disciplines retreat.

1 comment:

Angela said...

Mmmm, thanks for your honesty. I have the same problem. I make commitments and set goals for my 'quiet time' and find myself wasting time away in the world. I should set a rule like "No internet until I've read a chapter of the Bible or spent x amount of time in prayer." or is that too legalistic? I guess it really comes down to a matter of the heart and putting Him first - in every area of our lives. I will be praying for you! xo