Better to Retreat than Collapse

I decided to take a retreat day today. I've been putting it off for weeks, knowing it was needed but hesitant to take it.

"What will people think of me?" I wondered.

Taking a retreat day looks like a luxury for folks in the working world. My friends work hard: early mornings and late nights. Weekends. Their schedules are set by someone else. My taking a day off to reflect and pray and read ... that's something they would love to do, but can't. So I feel guilty taking a retreat.

Taking a retreat day reveals my weakness, reveals that the work of preaching and praying doesn't come easy to me, that there's strain. There's a part of me that wants to project to the world that my work is effortless, that it's all joy, that it's easy. I don't want them to see me strain, to see me sweat, to see me rest. So I feel embarassed taking a retreat.

Taking a retreat day allows God to confront me with the reality that my drift is to substitute an authentic relationship for him with a working relationship with him. Vocational ministry tempts us to treat our Savior and Lord as our Boss and Paycheck. And retreats force us into uncomfortable places where we're reading without preparing, praying without interceding, growing without performing. Though the correction provided by retreat days puts me back on track with the sort of relationship I want with God, I hate that I need that correction. So I resist taking a retreat.

I find that my tendency is toward busyness. Always going, always doing, always producing, always busy. This path earns respect and protects my ego and allows me to tell a generous story about myself. But this path also leads toward collapse.

Eugene Peterson shares these wise words in his book The Contemplative Pastor:
The word 'busy' is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection.
So, I'm taking a retreat today, with all the guilt and embarassment and resistance that comes with it. Better to retreat than collapse. That's what I keep telling myself.

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