Retreat means disconnected.
A couple of years ago I was blessed to speak at a conference at The Cove, the Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville, North Carolina. During one of the seminar breaks something akin to the picture above happened. The porch balcony right outside the meeting room was lined with rocking chairs, perhaps fifty of them. They were positioned to overlook a stunning mountain valley overview, a breathtaking vista of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Every chair was occupied. Every person in those chairs were fixed on their smart phones, gorgeous mountain views notwithstanding. It's when I learned that people really do want to get away from life realities to attend a retreat. That is, as long as they don't have to disconnect.
it was my initial exposure to FOMO, you know , the fear of missing out syndrome that keeps us all connected to the digital world out there. FOMO and a long list of new digital psychoses have created the impression that we can't live in this world apart from our devices and the continuous connections they enable us to make. Analysis of the spiritual landscape of America confirms the short attention span of most people, estimated by some researchers to be on par with a goldfish. We're not all that impatient or in constant motion by the ADHD talked about so much. Still, worship services, Bible studies, small groups, mission work, and so many other spiritual disciplines have been short-circuited by our compulsions to be in the know and on the move. FOMO may be real. Don't laugh, turn off your smart phone, and take a break.
Who doesn't need a vacation? In the same breath there's the reality that many of us just can't take one. Time commitments, family entanglements, financial stress, and so many other realities make time away difficult for many people. OK, then, how about the happy places, our momentary escapes from the routines that dictate our calendars and time management systems? After the blog post Wednesday one young friend said her happy place is in the the bathroom taking care of life's necessities. Another said her only quiet time was when everyone was down for the night and she had time to fold laundry. Joy!
Time alone with God is a significant Bible theme. Call it what you will but for me it is learning the discipline of retreat, that is, taking time away from daily life routines for time with the Father. For me it has been a discipline because it was something I had to learn. Jesus certainly modeled the idea of retreat for us---
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father
who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6:6, ESV
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the
other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the
crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he
was there alone.
Matthew 14:22-23, ESV
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.
Mark 1:35, ESV
Maybe it's just me, but underneath these verses are images of solitude, separation from the noise and movement of life, with time for study, prayer, reflection, and deep thought. It's hard in our connected world with our human desire to be in touch, to be available, to know what is happening in the world and the lives of people we love. Once again, it's discipline, you know, that of being his disciples.
Harriet and I saw it in action a couple of weeks ago. Our grandchildren, John Lewis (age 11) and Laura (age almost 7) Carpenter were in town during their spring break. So, we took them to some of their favorite Charleston sites. One morning was a trip to Ft. Moultrie, Sullivan's Island, SC. We toured the fort, climbed on cannon, went down into the powder magazines, and did three hours going through the place, again. Then, we went to the harbor side picnic area for a lunch. There was a married couple settled right beside us, overlooking the harbor. They had two chairs, a thermos of coffee, a cooler, a picnic basket, Bibles, and two books. They sat there all day reading. There were no smart phones, tablets, lap tops, or watches. They were on a retreat. They were disconnected.
Well, not really. They were connected to each other. And, to him. They knew, and evidently practiced often, the discipline of retreat, and being disconnected from the busy, fast paced world.
Lord, I need a vacation...some happy places...and the discipline of retreat, being disconnected from everything except you.
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