As I have been preparing for our women’s retreat: Reflect, Renew, Refresh, I’ve been pondering the purpose of retreats. Why do we gather together and go someplace out of the ordinary? Why do we take time away from our families and work and all the other activities that fill our lives? Do we even have time for this?
A little thought came into my mind. Advance through retreat.
Immediately, I remembered a chapter in Jesus’ ministry. Mark 6:7-12 tells us that Jesus sent out his disciples in teams of two. He told them to travel very light, and to talk to those who would listen, but to move on quickly from those who wouldn’t.
The apostles did as Jesus said, and when they returned to report back all they had done and taught, Jesus did an interesting thing. He said, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest for awhile.” The idea of the “desolate place” is introduced to us in Mark 1:35, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”
Jesus was teaching the disciples the rhythm of a faithful life. Go, do, but then stop. Seek time in a desolate place to pray and rest.
And so they went off in a boat to try to get to a desolate place. You may know what happens next. Many saw them leaving and ran ahead to the place they were going by boat, so that when the disciples and Jesus arrived at shore, the place was far from desolate. A great crowd had gathered. Jesus knew he and his disciples needed to pray and rest, but he also had compassion on the crowd so he taught them until late in the day. And while he was at it, he performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand men with only 5 loaves and 2 fish!
Then he immediately dismissed the crowd, and he sent his disciples away again. This time he stayed back himself and went to the mountain to pray.
The crowds were clambering to see him, literally running after him to see and hear him, but rather than catering to their every demand, he ran the other way. He went to the desolate place, the mountain, to pray and rest.
Jesus advanced the kingdom through retreating to seek God the Father in prayer and rest.
Around that same time in his ministry, he would mention rest again. This time he was lifting the burden of prideful, legalistic striving, but we can also learn about rest. He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Why do we go to a retreat? We go because we need to find that desolate place where we can pray and rest and be encouraged. We need the support of other like-minded souls who are also on the path of prayer and rest. We need to lay our burdens down and take on the easy yoke of rest for our souls.
We need to advance through retreat.
Won’t you join us on April 30th from 9:00-4:00 out at our very own desolate place, Camp Carl? Come and advance through retreat.
Cara Smith is Director of Women's Ministry at The Chapel. She is married, with three adult children and a grandchild. She enjoys writing Bible studies, hiking, gardening, cooking, tandem bicycling, and travel.
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