This past weekend I went away for an annual (sometimes bi-annual) “personal retreat.” I go to The Valle Crucis Episcopal Conference Center near Banner Elk, NC. They have, on a far corner of their property four Hermitages (pictured), which are one-bedroom log cabins arranged around a small, beautiful Chapel (those Episcopalians seem to get architecture right).
I go for a lot of reasons. Some reasons are not so grand; an “escape from stress” or an “immersion in introversion” perhaps. But some of my reasons are most lofty: “I want to open myself to God.” On balance, these retreats are high grace for me. I am learning, over the years, to walk in spiritually open. Or in Episcopalian language (I read the books they have in the cabins), I walk in as a “supplicant.” To supplicate is “to ask for humbly and earnestly.”
So my personal retreat is like a “person reset.” I forget who I am – so I set aside time and space to remember that I am a supplicant; a humble asker.
Now the idea of going alone to a “hermitage” may sound heavenly to an introvert and hellish to an extrovert, but a “Reset to Supplicant” (AKA – a personal retreat) is good for anyone. It takes us back to the essential identity of who we all are before we are introverts or extroverts. It takes us back to our Heavenly Father. When we come to Him – in all varieties of personalities – we come as children. Different people do it differently, but a personal retreat is the time and space to intentionally experience our need for God’s love.
That last sentence will frighten some of you. When you intentionally approach God with open hands – you don’t know what will happen. Your personal retreat might be a bust. You knock and the door is barred. You ask and there is silence. You seek and see nothing. Or you may fear for the opposite reason, you might see a door that you didn’t want to see, or hear an answer that unnerves you. You might, in seeking, find that Someone is looking for you. But a personal retreat is the opportunity to knock, listen and seek.
FAQs (and my humble answers):
What is a Personal Retreat?
– A personal retreat is time and space to ask God to be your Father.
– Regularly enough to create expectations and establish patterns to learn from (annually? quarterly?).
– Regularly enough to chronically interrupt your forgetfulness and reset your first love.
– It can be a few days, a day or even a half-day. Even a dedicated lunch hour gets you started.
– It can be far away from home or just around the corner. But it is a “retreat” so there needs to be distance from distractions/busyness/stress in order to focus on your relationship with God.
– Far enough to change the scenery – to have a fresh look at yourself and reality.
– Close enough to make it accessible on a regular basis (so you don’t spend too much time or money on transportation).
– Make a real plan:
– Be patient and gracious with yourself. You will be bored part of the time. You will waste parts of it. You will endure silence and confusion. You will wonder if you are doing it “right.”
– Bring home 2-3 “takeaways” – insights, prayers to begin, practices to start/stop, decisions, etc.
– Anyone who forgets they are a supplicant, a child of God. Yes, that’s you.
I’ve been doing personal retreats for 10+ years. This past retreat was perhaps the best, likely because it is the most recent. I’ll need another soon. But for now, I’ll re-enter the world God has put me into – with the renewed identity that I am His beloved child.
Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. In addition to counseling individuals & couples, Roger teaches & leads discussion groups about applying the Bible to everyday life. He is a licensed professional counselor, holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana & earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from UNCC. He is married to Jean, and they have seven children.
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