Strategic retreat

Sometimes I do things backwards. For example, I took myself off to retreat at Holy Cross Monastery and then came back home and read a wonderful book by Ruth Haley Barton titled “Invitation to Retreat: The Gifts and Necessity of Time Away with God.”

There were a number of things that were not exactly as I had hoped or planned during my time away. Just for one example: On my first night at the monastery, the alarm clock in my room–which I had not touched–went off rather loudly a few minutes after midnight, waking me from a deep sleep. I think I must have jumped a few feet off the bed in fright and the accompanying adrenaline rush certainly limited my ability to fall right back to sleep. (And I’m sure this did nothing to endear me to the retreatant in the room next door.)

Many of the intrusions on my sense of peace on retreat were things I had no control over, but I think if I’d had this book with me, I’d have been in a better place to roll with them. I highly recommend it.

I’m grateful to Barton for the prayer in the picture; it’s one I’ll spend some time with at home this Lent. She describes time away with God as a kind of “strategic withdrawal,” and of course she means really getting away, but a lot of what she talks about in the book would apply equally well to a holy Lent.

“We need to pull back from our busyness,” she says, “from life in our culture, from other people’s expectations and our own compulsions, from whatever is not working in our lives.”