As I was a few months from turning 30, I did a quick flip through the pages of my journal, and I saw just how badly I had digressed into all kinds of ruts—my social life, dating life, work life, spiritual life, health, everything.
As an entrepreneur, I let books about successful living from a wordly perspective have too much influence over my life.
I let TV commercials tell me what I needed.
I let songs on the radio guide my desires.
I let characters on TV shows replace real relationships.
I was consciously and subconsciously seeking counsel from idiots, and the last person I was listening to was the Holy Spirit.
I needed some kind of catalyst to kick me in the butt and get me moving in a new direction. All I knew was that I could not let my 30’s start the way my 20’s were ending. I had some work to do.
Thankfully, I was doing at least one thing right: I had established a mentor relationship with an older, wiser Christian man. Our times together were meaningful and he was able to observe my life with an objective eye, something I was unable to do at the time. He knew I was asking everyone around me for advice about my life and that this would only lead to a continual spinning of my wheels. He also knew those were questions that only my Creator could answer. Sure, he could give me career and relationship advice, but he was wise enough to discern that it was not advice that I truly needed, but simple, one-on-one time with the Lord. He suggested many times that I go on a short sabbatical to seek the Lord for direction.
So after much resistance, eventually I went. I rented a cabin in the woods. No internet, no TV, no iPhone, no contact with the outside world. Just the Lord and me. My mentor was right: the five days I spent quiet with the Lord changed the course of my life.
When I make bold statements like, “It changed the course of my life,” many people want to know the magic formula, so they too can see change in their own lives.
And the problem with that question is:
There are no formulas with God.
For years, I copied other people’s formulas and stories and failed miserably.
I am unique.
My story is unique.
So is yours.
Therefore, how the Lord wants to reach each of us will be different. But I firmly believe He does want each of us to be quiet before Him. And not just occasionally.
I needed a sabbatical to hear God in a fresh way and get out of my rut. Some of us need that, but some of us just need to be obedient to the things we’ve already heard from Him. For me, the sabbatical was a tool to rekindle a relationship that I had allowed to grow stale.
I had to stop listening to the distractors and following their good storylines for my life. And I had to stop listening to the destructors and following their safe storylines for my life. When I got away from life as I knew it, I understood that I was listening to everyone and everything but the Lord who wanted to lead me to an EPIC storyline for my life.
Good and safe are the most dangerous ways to live. There’s not much resistance involved in those terms. Change does bring resistance, but even better, change brings freedom.
In the coming weeks, I’ll offer some ideas or suggestions that might be helpful for your own personal spiritual retreat, but I won’t be giving you a step-by-step plan. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.
Have any of you taken any sort of spiritual sabbatical or retreat? Share your story in the comments below.