Years ago, in college, I developed the practice of going for long, solitary walks to clear my mind of all the stresses of classes, assignments, exams, and performances.
Later, as a busy mother, church volunteer, and music teacher, the only quiet and truly private spot I could find for my rare moments of retreat was—think the old Calgon commercials—the bathroom. Not really a retreat, but it was the most I could manage at that time.
Remember Maria from The Sound of Music? She hiked into the Austrian Alps to be alone with God and her thoughts. Wouldn’t that be great?
Nowadays, most of my mini-retreats are solitary places. So this past weekend’s Front Range Christian Fiction Writer’s Retreat at Estes Park was a new thing for me. At our resort, I met and socialized with my writer friends. Networked. Learned about writing opportunities. Listened. Shared. Ate and snacked with friends.
Then we all retreated to our separate rooms to write. No pressure to follow any specific agenda. No expectations for what and how much to write. Just do what you want for an entire weekend.
Sound great? You bet.
I did not turn on the TV. I didn’t listen to music. The quiet of the hotel room sometimes startled me, as if something were wrong. Until I reminded myself that it was okay to have silence.
But I’m learning that a Retreat isn’t necessarily about getting alone.
A Retreat is about leaving your usual set of daily activities and chores.
Letting the change in environment, the change in weather, in light or dark, in waking and sleeping, in your usual set of friends… shake your brain free. And asking God to accomplish his purpose during this time.
By Sunday, I felt fully into the mind-set of Retreat. I had finished editing my latest novel, and had formulated a plan for the next six months of my writing career. My mind felt clearer. Thank You, God!
Jesus went on Retreat. His were very short. But, being the Master, He knew how to get the most out of His jaunts up into the hills where he met His Father.
“With the crowd dispersed, He, (Jesus) climbed the mountain so He could be by Himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.” (Matt. 14:23 The Message)