Four and a half years ago, my husband and I had the privilege of taking a Sabbatical Retreat for Lead Pastors and their spouses. Five other ministry couples seeking sanctuary joined us, along with two lead couples facilitating the event from Broom Tree Ministries.
The backdrop for this experience was a log cabin resort situated in the woods, on a lake, just outside Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was October and the leaves were many brilliant colours. There was a refreshing crispness in the air and the smell of bonfires filled each evening. We heard the sound of animals preparing their winter lodgings as we walked the nature paths. The sun bounced off the lake with its last rays of warmth and the odd snowflake fluttered in the breeze. The whole atmosphere was revitalizing.
The entire purpose of the retreat was to simply unplug and seek solitude with God. There were no flashy worship services or high profile speakers. There were no workshops or prayer meetings. There was simply solitude; an opportunity to be very quiet, to catch up on rest, to reconnect as a couple, to just sit in the presence of God.
The lead couples provided study tools to use throughout this four-day rest. They were available for prayer and guidance if needed. At suppertime, we all came together to eat, share and pray with one another. But, for the most part we were left to rediscover God and rest in His presence at our own pace. It was absolutely refreshing!
Recently, I was revisiting some of the things I read and wrote down in my retreat workbook and the following quote struck me. It pertains to all of us.
“Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life.
We do not take the spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside time to be with God and listen to Him.”
This is easy to do on a Sabbatical Retreat, but what about every day? Sure, I spend time with God daily, but often I am rushed because life gets in the way? Or do I allow life to get in the way? Am I intentional in setting apart time in my calendar to seek true solitude with Him and listen to His voice? Or do I come to Him dominating the conversation with my prayers, cramming His word into my thoughts and moving on to what I am interested in? Hmmm.
One of the exercises in response to this quote asked us to, “Stop all that you are doing. Find a quiet spot and just stop thinking about or hearing anything, except what God is speaking at this moment. Do this for 60 seconds.” This proved to be a very difficult task, being that I am a woman and women can think about 75, 000 different things all at once…Daughters, you know what I mean!
So, I encourage you to do what I did. I closed my eyes and sat very still. I visualized in my mind a large square with a fence around it. Inside were my many thoughts. I mentally took each thought and moved it out beyond the fence until the square was empty. When I did this, one word remained. I could not move it. That word was “God.” I focussed on His name, allowing my thoughts to dwell there. I could still see all the thoughts outside the fence. When one would creep in I simply picked it up, put it beyond the fence and focussed on God. I felt His presence so strong and when I was done I was surprised that 20 minutes had passed! I had far exceeded the 60 seconds requested in the workbook. I had reached a place of solitude with Him!
I need to get back to that place each day intentionality. I need to carve out time daily to simply sit in His presence, purging my mind of everything but Him, and wait for His presence to wash over me. I need solitude!