Facebook, Twitter, television, websites, commercials, billboards, radio, sports, up-to-the-second news, iPhones—the Enemy loves it.
I’m trying every day to still myself before the Lord, but a lot of times I let these good things from the modern world devour the great things the Lord has for me. Oh, the power of daily resistance to settle for good and not great. That’s why I’ve found it invaluable to go on periodic sabbaticals or spiritual retreats from time to time, even if it’s just for a weekend.
Last week, I discussed my first, and longest, sabbatical which lasted 5 days back in 2010. A little more detail about the preparation I did in advance:
From my own experience and the experience of my friends, I’ve found out the hardest part of taking a sabbatical is keeping it on your calendar. It’s one thing to write it on your calendar, but it’s a whole other thing to actually show up.
Believe it or not, the Enemy hates extended, focused, and dedicated time with our Savior. Shocking. He doesn’t want us meditating on scripture. And He certainly doesn’t want us to be able to hear the Holy Spirit.
In early January 2010, I resolved to take a sabbatical. I looked at the calendar, talked to the necessary people at work, and picked out a week in February. As soon as I wrote it down, it was as if I wrote it in stone. Unless there was a death in the family, I was showing up to that special appointment with God. I even told everyone around me I was going, so they could keep me accountable. I’ve never been so committed to an appointment in all my life, and it was that resolve that helped ensure that I did not back out. Otherwise, like some appointments in my life, I can let alternate things take precedence and bump them right off the calendar.
After the time was set, I began to pray about a place. I knew immediately I would not do it at my house. There were way too many distractions. I also knew I wanted the place to be out of the city and in nature. I brainstormed everyone I knew who might have a house or cabin and eventually found a discounted lake house on a really quiet street in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
I had two goals in preparing my heart: to show up empty and to show up with high expectations. I wanted to show up as a blank canvas and be ready for God to speak about anything He wanted to in my life. And He did. I also had the expectations that God would show up in a mighty way. And He did.
The Surprise Packing List
Two days before I left, I got into my car to make a Starbucks run. It was a beautiful Saturday morning, and as I began to return home I just had an urge to go for a drive. I live in a northern suburb of Dallas, and somehow 30 minutes later I found myself at a large, used bookstore in the city. I honestly just started driving and it wasn’t until I was several miles from the bookstore that it hit me to stop and pick up a few books for my trip.
I prayerfully wandered around the store for an hour and bought a half-dozen books. In only a way that God could do, He used many of those books to speak very specifically to me during the sabbatical. They were so well timed and included topics that I didn’t even realize God wanted to deal with me about. It was crazy cool.
Starting today, we should all give ourselves permission to stop producing and consuming from time to time and start resting. Let the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit and allow Him the quietness to move.
Next week, I’ll discuss what actually went on during those 5 days at the lake house. Until then, do you have any tips for planning a spiritual retreat/sabbatical?