If you’re like me, sometimes you find your life “stuck,” and at the same time spinning out of control. Life’s demands push us to do more and more until we’re pretty much undone. Something tells us it would be good to slow down, take time to reflect on what we’re doing and where we’re going, but the clock just keeps ticking louder and faster. Sometimes it’s good to just stop and be still.
A couple years ago, I heard Don MacLafferty share his experiences of having “24 Hours with God.” His genuine enthusiasm inspired me to try having my own personal spiritual retreat. I am a firm believer in making plans, but I have to admit that my decision to “retreat” was made rather spontaneously.
I awoke to an empty house one snowy Michigan Sabbath and found myself wishing I had planned a retreat (like somewhere in warm, sunny California). As I began my prayer time, it dawned on me that this very day was the perfect day. It was one of the first Sabbaths of the year—what better time! To avoid putting it off and becoming distracted, I found the suggestions Don had shared (see next article) and began to get ready for my 24 hours with God.
As he suggested, I kept it simple and relaxed. I called a close friend and asked her to intercede for me throughout the day. I soaked in a warm bubble bath and then put on comfortable clothes and slippers. My retreat supplies consisted of my Bible, a pen, some scratch paper, water, fruit, and nuts. I decided to spend most of the time in the downstairs guest room where it was comfortable and free from distractions. I dimmed the lights and lit a few scented candles to give the room a cozy feel, and then curled up in a soft, warm afghan.
What a treat it was to just be! To spend hours and hours of uninterrupted time alone with God! I kept the retreat suggestions close by to use as reference. After spending time pouring out my heart to God and listening to His still, small voice, I went into another room to reflect on how He had led me in the past year, where I was currently, and what He might have in mind for me throughout the coming year.
I did this for each role in my life. Some things I wrote down were affirming and easy to celebrate. Others were challenging. It was comforting to remember that God loved me as I was, yet had areas of growth He desired to help me reach.
Because I wanted to remain in the warmth of my house, I didn’t go outside for a walk but instead went upstairs and made a cup of herbal tea. As I sipped the tea, I had time to think about what I had experienced and learned so far. The warm tea and comfortable surroundings were just the invitation I needed to take a little nap.
When I awoke, I spent time rededicating myself to God and asking His help in carrying out the plans He had laid before me. I read from my Bible and jotted down additional thoughts that came to mind. All too soon, the day was over and it was time to go to bed. The next morning, I ended my retreat with a time of praise and thanksgiving.
That 24 hours was just what I needed! I believe God enjoyed it too. It was such a blessing that daily devotions now seem like mini-retreats. God and I met again at the beginning of this year, and we’re planning to make it a tradition: alone with God for 24 hours.