I long to hear his voice. I want to hear him call my name. I want to be ready for the mundane and miraculous plans he has for me and my life.
Rest is a gift that refuels, renews, and refreshes. Everyday life batters my soul. Throw in some weighty responsibilities at work, a frazzled relationship, and a cartload of parenting guilt and waves of weariness descend upon me at an alarming rate. I am convinced that today's modern mayhem is not a lifestyle that orients us to the things of God. The missing ingredient to this puzzling way of life is rest.
A rested soul alters my attitude. It alters my attitude about everything—from purpose and pleasure to pressures and problems. Because of this, I attempt to carve out regular extended getaways to be alone with my Father. At times I am able to make room for a full day getaway. Occasionally it's an overnight adventure. I no longer work at a church, and taking a full day away is even more challenging. Thankfully, I have discovered that one or two hours alone on a Sunday afternoon is enough time for me to meet the Lord face-to-face in a way that centers my soul and redirects my gaze—off of me, onto him.
These are precious hours for me. I am off the hook. I don't have to do anything. I don't have to accomplish anything. I don't have to produce, poke, prod, or provide anything for anyone. I can just be. I exist to receive from God's extravagant warehouse of love. I listen. I rest. I read. I journal. I hike. I go into each hour with no expectations. I follow no agenda, yet each time he tenderly and passionately renews my mind and refreshes my soul. Sometimes he offers an explosion of insight, other times his presence is like a quiet, gentle rain. Each day has a unique, refreshing gift and no two are ever alike.
But still, we resist! We wait for a quieter season to arrive, a season that will never transpire. We drag our feet, forfeiting this gift and making it a burden—another item to add to our overloaded to-do list. We are not alone, however, and there is hope and good news ahead.
Over the years I've made three discoveries about extended time alone with God. These discoveries have removed many self-imposed roadblocks—for me and a few others along the way.
Removing the Roadblocks
First, a getaway with God doesn't have to be a solo experience. A personal retreat can take place in tandem with another who also desires to experience extended time away with the Lord. Going away by ourselves often puts up unnecessary roadblocks: I don't like being alone. Will I feel safe? What will I do all day? Satan celebrates as we detour away from that which renews and recharges us.
Traveling to a retreat center, city park, or quiet corner with a friend or small group creates an event that is not easily rescheduled. Fellowship around a meal is a refreshing way to enhance what God is doing in our hearts during the time we spend alone. When committed to a few hours of solitude, a personal retreat taken with a friend or small group offers the best of both worlds.
Secondly, I've learned to take the pressure off. I have to remind myself that there is no single, right way to meet with the Lord during extended getaways with God. Gary Thomas explodes this myth in his book Sacred Pathways. He challenges us to embrace the reality that some believers meet best with God when surrounded by trees or when traipsing through a grassy meadow. Others recognize the Father's voice through liturgical prayers and predetermined Bible readings. Some sing and feast. Others are nourished through fasting and complete solitude.