Peace and quiet. They go together more then we’d like to admit. The absence of quiet in the lives of 21st century believers may be robbing us of the peace (not to mention the purpose and power we all desire) that God promises can and will defy human understanding—peace for the wars that ravage within and without.
The last six months of my mom’s life reintroduced me to quiet. Monthly at first, then weekly trips from Indiana to Illinois placed me in a little white Escort, alone and quiet for 4 ½ hours at a time. As a stay-at-home mom of five ages one to eight, I had forgotten such a world existed. It didn’t take long for great expectations to emerge. God repeatedly met in those quiet hours right where I was at, whether deeply burdened or stark raving mad. As the radio stayed off, the quiet seeped into my heart. So did God.
After mom’s death, my aching heart grew limp. I knew what I needed. Were my quiet hours gone? Did I need to be tooling down I-80 in order to meet with God for an extended time alone with him? Could we transition our personal rendezvous to a new time and place? I found a catholic retreat center, which opened its doors to the likes of me. God met me once again in a quiet place, a place set apart from the distractions and demands of everyday life. Within those quiet hours, the healing began.
I couldn’t keep quiet. Face-to-face with my small group Bible study that next week, I looked each one in the eye.
“When was then last time you experienced two hours alone with God?”
“I’m lucky if I get ten minutes.”
Everyone else remained quiet.
We were a lively group committed to big things for God. We could barely imagine veering off the speedway of life long enough to slow down for 120 minutes of quiet. Was it even possible. We talked long and hard that night, captured by the notion that this was a missing ingredient in our spiritual growth. We decided to explore stories of personal retreat in the Bible.
The first night we began by taking a look at David’s retreat into the cave of Adullam. The cave is a magnificent, expansive refuge in the Judean wilderness about two miles south of Herodium. Psalms 57 and 142 were written while David was on retreat with a growing band of people in distress. The emotions of these psalms are intense. David’s prayer from Psalm 23 had to be a source of comfort and encouragement. We ended that night savoring the promises of the first 3 verses.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters
he refreshes my soul.”
We ended with simple questions. “Am I tired?” “Where do I need restoration?” Where can we find green pastures and quiet waters today?”
Over the next few weeks we took a look at a number of one-on-one encounters with God in the Old Testament: Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3). Elijah’s broom tree blues followed by the power of God displayed at Mount Horeb (I Kings 19). Jonah’s three-day personal retreat—one of the more unusual adventures and one none of us wanted to duplicate. Jacob spent the night wrestling with God prior to reuniting with his brother, Esau (Genesis 32:22 ff).
In the New Testament, it was easy to spot who was the most committed to personal retreat—Jesus. A 40-day desert retreat launched his public ministry (Luke 4). The evening before Jesus chose his twelve disciples, he traveled up into the hills to spend a night in prayer with his Father (Luke 6:12 ff). Jesus also had a favorite place to withdraw, to retreat. It was the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39). Again and again and again, Jesus went away, off the beaten path, to spend time alone with his Father. We were humbled. We had not been following in the footsteps of Jesus.
We were convicted. “OK. OK. We’ll do it!” We were committed to something new.
Mark 6:31b became a personal invitation.