Then … he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)
In the sermon at our church this past Sunday we were thinking about the theme of pilgrimage. We were encouraged to think about taking a mini-pilgrimage or mini-retreat during the summer (you can read about some of the suggestions here). This seemed like a terrific suggestion and well worth considering.
Jesus himself regularly took time out to be alone with his Father. Jesus’ disciples, however, didn’t seem to follow this pattern or find it particular natural to them (which is encouraging to hear!) After the disciples had been sent out on a particularly demanding ministry task, Jesus offer them this invitation: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Their ministry had been challenging but fruitful. Yet even after fruitful and positive times of ministry, Jesus draws them aside for rest and retreat.
Some of us will be drawn more naturally to times of retreat. The idea of being alone and quiet will seem delightful to some and dreadful to others. Some of us will long for uninterrupted time to reflect and pray; some of us simply wouldn’t know where to start.Despite this, times of retreat can be healthy and spiritually stimulating whatever personality and character you might be.
Jesus offers that same invitation to us today: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place…” If you have never taken time for retreat before, why not start small? Take just half an hour one day and find an appropriate space to stop and think. A quiet spot is good, somewhere where you can avoid distractions and interruptions, and where you can pray in whatever style suits you without embarrassment. Read a short passage from God’s word, perhaps a psalm that helps you to worship and focus on God (we were using Psalm 84 on Sunday). It can help to have a few questions to guide your thinking – here are a few suggestions:
- Where have I seen God at work recently?
- When have I felt most close to God recently? Why?
- When have I felt far away from God recently? Why?
- What is God challenging in my life right now?
- What is God try to say to me right now?
I would encourage you to write down your thoughts and reflections. This will help you to focus and gives you something to look back on later. These notes are just for you, so write them in the way that is most helpful for you.
Finally, turn your reflections into prayer; offer up to God everything you have been thinking and feeling. Do this out loud or silently, sitting down or standing up, or going for a walk, whatever works best for you.
This is just a suggestion, so use and adapt the framework as you see fit. Hopefully you will find it a refreshing time with God which deepens your relationship with Him. You may find that half an hour flies by, and before you know it you are looking forward to spending an hour, two hours or even more in quiet retreat with your Heavenly Father. But start small and let the Holy Spirit fan into flame this gift that he wants to give to you.