Sunday, January 19, 2020

How To Take A Spiritual Retreat-Part One

"He makes me lie down in fresh, tender, green pastures. 
He leads me beside the still and restful waters.
He refreshes and restores my life..." 
Psalm 23:2-3 AMPC

This past week I had a three day personal retreat all by myself at a cozy little hotel at the beach. This time of spiritual rest and refreshing was exactly what I needed. I am so blessed that my husband and our church leadership recognized what I needed as well and provided this getaway for me.

Lest you think, "How lucky is she? She gets to get away from life and responsibilities whenever she wants!" The truth is, this is only the second time in my sixty two years of living that I've gone away by myself like this. Yes, I've been to many retreats with other women, but only twice have I gone away all alone. I can't just take off for a few days at the beach every time I feel depleted. (Although, if anyone has a cottage at the beach they'd like to donate for this purpose I wouldn't turn it down!)  So, I've had to learn to take times of personal spiritual retreat right where I live. But, if you can take some time away, I highly recommend it! I've decided to make this a three part blog series. This week  I thought I'd share some symptoms of spiritual depletion/weariness. In part two I'll share some suggestions on what to do on a personal spiritual retreat and in part three I'll share how to build times of personal spiritual retreat into your normal everyday life.

Signs of spiritual depletion.
First of all, I think that those who are in any kind of ministry or occupation that involves caregiving are most prone to physical, emotional and spiritual weariness and depletion. From mothering, to caring for aging parents, from nursing to teaching, from counseling to pastoral ministry, when your full time job is caring for others than I would assume that it's more common to experience times of emptiness, depletion and weariness. It makes sense that those who spend their lives pouring into others would, on occasion, struggle with their own emptiness.  In my life, I've learned some preventive measures that usually help me to not become completely depleted. However, there have been a few occasions, these past few weeks being one of them, when I felt like I needed a more intensive time of getting filled back up and refreshed than I normally get through my daily devotional time.

To be clear, spiritual depletion is a weariness that sleep doesn't satisfy. While physical weariness can contribute to spiritual depletion, when you are spiritually depleted you will notice that even after a good night's sleep you still wake up feeling tired and weary in your innermost being. For me, I noticed that the normal demands of ministry life, even little things added to my schedule, seemed monumentally overwhelming.

Let me give you an illustration that may help you understand what I'm trying to communicate. Our physical body needs daily hydrating which we get by drinking water, daily nourishment which we get by eating nutritious food, and rest, which we get through sleeping. But if you've ever had a bad flu bug and gotten dehydrated then you know that sometimes you have to have medical intervention, IV fluids, to get your body hydrated again. Similarly our innermost being, our spiritual self, also needs water, food and rest. Normally, we get these through daily times of eating and drinking from the Word of God and spending time in His presence. I realized I needed a time of personal spiritual retreat, a spiritual I.V., when I still wasn't "hydrated" even after my normal spiritual intake at home.

When I'm spiritually depleted I am not in good control of my thoughts and emotions. When I'm spiritually strong and healthy I'm able to discern when my thoughts and emotions are leading me astray and I can bring them back into alignment with the truth and peace of God. Normally, I'm a natural optimist, but during this season of spiritual depletion I noticed that my thoughts were gloomy and negative. My feelings were more sensitive than normal. I was easily wounded and cried easily. God showed me the depth of my depletion while I was on a walk and listening to the podcast of my son-in-law's Sunday sermon. In his message he had the congregation read aloud with him the twenty third Psalm, so I began reciting it aloud on my walk. Suddenly big racking sobs rose up from deep within me. God was mercifully showing me how desperate I was for inner rest and refreshing.

Another sign of spiritual depletion and weariness is having a feeling that I would describe as an inner itch you can't scratch, an inner dissatisfaction. The danger that I have fallen into at times is to try to satisfy my spiritual itch with physical pleasures-food, fun, shopping, etc. It's as ludicrous as trying to fuel your empty car with water instead of gas. When you are running on spiritual empty the fuel that you need is only found in God's presence. 2 Samuel 22:7 in The Message Bible states, "My cry brought me right into His presence." Isn't that such a beautiful truth! I don't want you to think that the only way to get spiritually filled up is to get away from your home and real life responsibilities. We will be ending this series with a post about how to have times of personal spiritual retreat without leaving home. God's presence, peace and rest is accessible to us right in the middle of our demanding lives. Your only hope is not in getting away, but in crying out to Him about your desperate need for being filled up. A personal spiritual retreat away from home is a rarity. If you are able to take one, next week I'll share about what that looked like for me and some suggestions for you.

still following,

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