The Necessary Retreat
We all have our "happy place."
Maybe it's the porch.
One of my friends said her husband loves the back porch so much they call their patio "The Matt-io."
Maybe for you, it's the beach.
Sunshine and waves and the smell of Coppertone sunscreen is your ticket to serenity.
Maybe it's less expensive. Maybe all it takes is a hot shower.
As a parent of little ones, complicated and compulsive adolescents, or seemingly unreachable teenagers, you seek a few minutes of alone time. Brief and simple, but happy nonetheless.
Maybe it's the couch.
Yes, a deep-seated couch you can sink into, or your favorite recliner that's worn in all the right places...happy may not even begin to describe it.
Maybe it's the coffee shop around the corner.
The smell of coffee beans fills your senses and the laid-back environment is all you need to escape the dizziness of incessant traffic and deadlines - if only for a few minutes.
For me, it doesn't matter if it's the back porch, a vacation, a kayak, the sofa or in my kitchen playing music and choppin' vegetables - my happy place usually involves one of two things:
Getting to focus on one thing...
...or, feet up.
And gosh, when I get to experience both - focusing on one thing with my feet up - ooh, ooh, ooh a moment of pure luxury!
Indeed, I'm a happy girl.
Sitting with a group of friends, we noticed one of the guys was staring off into the distance, seemingly lost in thought. When asked what he was thinking about, his answer left me dumbfounded and dripping with jealousy.
He said, "Nothing."
When pressed, he didn't mean "Nothing big." No, he meant nothing. Not one thing on his mind in this moment.
What?! Literally not a single thought?!
I think my jaw hit the floor.
I'd love to know what that's like. I've never experienced that.
My mind, on the other hand, is like an internet browser with maxed out tabs. Not only are the tabs maxed out but I have countless windows open with maxed out tabs on each of them!
Every thought is connected to another thought, and I'm constantly thinking.
And it's not just me. I know this because I have conversations with others experiencing the same level of uncontrollable thoughts.
In a text with my good friend Becca, she described this experience all too well.
First of all, you should probably know that Becca - well, she's a never-back-down from a good laugh, full-force type. She holds nothing back - in all the best ways.
Her super power? She doesn't just lean into awkward situations, she busts right through them! If there's something that could be considered somewhat awkward, she's gonna call it out and make everyone acknowledge the elephant in the room and laugh through it.
And because my tendency is to be more reserved and let everyone sit next to the awkward elephant, I truly adore this about her. You’re guaranteed at least one hardy, wide-mouthed laugh, maybe even a snort, in her presence. Truly, she makes this world a more fun place to live.
Anyway, our text went something like this...
Me: You mean we don't have to think about everything and solve all the world's problems at once???!
Becca: Hahahaha riiiight!?!?! Mental spaghetti. I'm telling you. It's a real thing. Could you imagine how much healthier we'd be if we could put away some thoughts?
Mental spaghetti. Becca got that right.
Our thoughts are often these long noodles, and I don't know about you, but I rarely eat one noodle at a time.
Instead, I spin my fork and try to oh, so elegantly CRAM as many noodles as possible into my mouth as quickly as possible before they unravel and sauce pours down my chin onto my shirt and ends up on my lap.
Okay, so it's not elegant. At all.
Same is true for my thoughts. It's as if I live in the perpetual worry that if I don't think about this now, it will be left unattended, escape into the abyss of forgetfulness…
…and it won't get done.
My intentions are pure. I want to be helpful! I want to be on my game!
But it's stealing my joy. This place is not so happy. Maybe you can relate.
Or, maybe you're more like a waffle - you compartmentalize your thoughts naturally, living and thinking through one square at a time.
Before we, Team Spaghetti-ers, idolize Team Waffle too much or Team Waffle gets a big head, we need to realize we’re not that different.
I mean, after all, we're both carbs! We're both delicious… you can top both with chicken... both taste great with a little (or a lot of) butter on top...
Point being, I don't think there's one way that's better than the other. Although mental spaghetti can cause chaos and a lack of peace from the quantity of thoughts, thinking through waffled squares can cause you to miss connections between related thoughts which can lead to chaos and a lack of peace.
And we know, life is messy. It's not always a neat and tidy box we can just think through and check off the list.
It's not about choosing one or the other but about working towards a more balanced approached - having the wisdom to know which thought deserves our attention as well as the grace to practice surrendering this care to God.
...Because, we were not created to carry this burden.
So yes, we yearn for the "happy place.”
How do we get there in the midst of all the problems and needs surrounding us? How do we close the tabs - shoot, even minimize the tabs for a few moments?
We retreat. That word stands out to me.
Re - treat.
The prefix, "re," means to do again.
Treat, well, it has several meanings, and I think each of them can help us unpack the "happy" in our happy places.
(noun) - an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure.
(verb) - behave toward or deal with in a certain way
(verb) - give medical care or attention to; try to heal or cure.
Given these definitions, we can take retreat to mean it's an out of the ordinary experience that brings us great pleasure, or it's acting in an intentional way, or giving attention to something or trying to heal something.
Add “re” to the beginning and we know it's not a once and done type of thing. We need this more than once, regularly even. We have to take time to get away from all the noise and demands of our days.
You know, we often see Jesus step away from His work, too, and His work was Kingdom work, holy work! If the Son of God needs a time away, it's safe to say we do, too.
We see Him step away for different reasons on several occasions throughout scripture - preparing for His public ministry, making important decisions like choosing His twelve disciples, recharging before performing miracles like feeding the crowd of 5,000. (Smart move, Jesus...5,000 hungry stomachs is nothing compared to the even hungrier souls in Your midst.)
He retreated in solemn times, too - grieving the death of a friend, or taking time away from others to pray and cry out to God during times of distress.
Often, we see Jesus withdraw from crowds to regain His focus and vision. His work and ministry was good, life-giving even, but He needed time away to refocus just the same. In this time away, He is giving attention to His thoughts.
“…the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. - Luke 5:15-16
I don't know what is heavy on your mind right now.
Maybe you need to prepare for what is ahead or rest from work you've been doing.
Maybe your heart is grieving a loss and you need time to heal.
Maybe you're in a place of utter distress over may what lie ahead of you.
Maybe you have an important decision to make or need to refocus and create a renewed vision for your marriage, your family, your work, your purpose.
Maybe you're not quite sure what it is, but you know your pace is not sustainable. You're tired and need to catch your breath.
Whatever it is for you, it's time.
Let's step away from all of the things (even if they are good things, for we know they are not the BEST thing) demanding our attention and find our "happy place" in Him.
Stepping away, I'm realizing, is about access - accessing the Father and allowing Him to access the parts of us that are often cluttered and distracted by everyday doings and beings.
Do you need insight? Are you needing God to make something clear to you?
Join me these next few weeks - we can sound fancy and call it a Direct Access Retreat. The best part, you don't have to dress up or go anywhere or buy any tickets. You're ready right there where you are! Just as you are, you can have direct access to the Creator of the Universe!
How awesome is that?!
Let's find a quiet place - a couch, kitchen table, maybe a closet. We'll step away from our distractions and step into a deeper relationship with the One who created us.
We'll spend some time talking to Him and reading His truth.
If a happy place is created when we get to focus on one thing, then let's do that. Let's let some things go (like Netflix or news or social media scrolling or fast food or whatever is preoccupying your thoughts today) so we have space and time to focus our thoughts on one thing, the only thing that matters - Jesus.
What could happen in 40 days with Jesus? How could being intentional to create space for Him and put Him first change your life and affect the lives of those around you?
Let's find out together.
May we be strengthened as we see Jesus model this for us. May our joy be renewed in His presence. May we rest from seeking a "happy place" of this world and find peace in the “happy place” of being close to Him.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
I love hearing from you, so go ahead. Leave a comment. Be brave. Maybe your comment will speak life into someone else!
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