What’s on the Menu for a Personal Retreat?
by Letitia Suk
Have you ever considered taking a simple day away to unplug from stress and recharge your soul? Sounds delicious, right?
Taking a personal retreat, a/k/a a “Getaway with God,” is just that. Stepping aside for a day or more to deeply rest, listen to God, and plan your next steps (or years) can have the same effect on your soul as plugging your smart phone in for a long charge.
If you’re like most folks, your first question is along the lines of, “What do you do on a retreat by yourself?” That was my question forty years ago, as I scheduled my initial personal retreat. If you are looking for one quick answer, you might be disappointed, but if you would like to see the “retreat menu” before you order, keep on reading.
Just as God has uniquely designed each of us, He will help you design
a getaway with Him that will have your name all over it. A lot of the details and structure depends on our personality or season of life. What fits one season might not be
as life-giving in another. What suits one friend’s personality might not fit yours. Let me offer you a few themes to choose from.
A Rest & Restoration Retreat:
A retreat offers time away to spend with God as well as a time for deep rest. A restorative retreat is often chosen by moms in the season of having young children. I often called this season the “Blur Years.” Of course, it is hard to get away from young children for any length of time because there is always one more thing to do. Often times, you may just be too tired to even think about it.
Not a mom? This type of retreat works for anyone who needs rest and restoration, which describes most of us at some time or another, maybe you right now. This type of retreat focuses on building back up and will likely include napping, eating nutritiously, drinking lots of water, and simply preparing to experience the favor of the Lord without doing much else.
In case you are still wondering if resting counts as a real retreat, take a look at the story of the prophet, Elijah, in 1 Kings 19:5-8. After one of the most triumphant (as well as trying) points in his ministry, Elijah is full of self-doubt and doomsday thinking, crying out, “I have had enough, Lord!”
He then crashes into a long nap until awakened by an angel who offers him food and drink. Elijah eats the catered bread, drinks the water and falls back to sleep. Once again, the angel wakes him with more food and water. Then, “Strengthened by the food,” he is ready to resume the next thing on God’s to-do list for him.
Doesn’t it seem possible God might want to offer you something similar for your weariness?
A Listening Retreat: Will God speak to me?
Most of us can easily pull out a list of things we would like to hear God’s opinion or direction on in our lives. From reading Scripture, it seems like God had a lot to say to His people back then. What about now? I believe He still wants to communicate with us each day. We need time and space to listen.
Sometimes the Biblical message was for a large group of people such as the words of the prophets to the nation, and other times it was more intimate. Think about the comforting words God brought to Abraham, David, Joseph and countless others. Could He have something personal to say to you too?
Getting away with God on a personal retreat can provide the time, place and space to sit with Jesus and listen. Are you stuck? Need to seek God about clarification or direction? Wanting to unpack a theme in Scripture or take a new look at the Gospels? Samuel’s words in 1 Samuel 3:10 work for us too, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Choosing this type of retreat can be quite enlightening.
A Goal Setting Retreat: What’s the plan?
Goal setting is one of my favorite retreat activities. Maybe it’s because I am a life coach, but I swoon at the sight of lists and calendars. It’s crazy, but one of the paradoxes of Scripture is we are called both to plan, and then to hand the plan over to God in case He has a different agenda. That’s hard for a girl like me!
Some of us are goal setters, and some cringe at the concept. Where do you fit on the spectrum? Do you make to-do lists for each day/month/year? Do you love to cross off items as you accomplish them? Maybe you like a more generalized “Sometime I would like to ( fill in the blank)” without getting specific as to when.
What kind of goals? you might ask. How about if you pick and choose from the following goal-setting menu, according to what might be your style.
1) Life Goals: These could also be called mission statements. These goals don’t change from year to year, but define the overall direction of your life. This could be a list of four to six items of priority for your life’s journey or a simple mission statement.
2) Five-ten year goals: Can you project where you would like to be
in that time period? What would it take to get there? Some of the categories might include family, career, ministry, education, etc. Ask God to give you some direction to fill in a few blanks.
3) One year goals: One year from now, how do you want your life to look? Your family? Your work? Your body? Dream big, but realistically. From there, plan backwards. What has to be in place in 6 months, 3 months, next month, next week?
4) Short term goals: This can be any “short-term” of your choice. Perhaps from now until summer/ Christmas, whichever comes first. One of my favorite exercises is “10 Goals in 90 Days.” Ninety days is a very good amount of time to invest in changing your life. It is a short-term commitment, yet long enough to make a difference. To do this exercise, think over different areas of your life and pinpoint what actions over the course of the next 90 days would bring satisfying realistic results.
Of course, if you make your plans, choose your goals, and leave them in your retreat file, they won’t serve you well and won’t likely be accomplished. Would you feel comfortable sharing your list with your spouse, friend, or small group?
How about praying over them regularly? Ask God and yourself what kind of accountability would be the most effective to ensure success.
Restorative, Listening, and Planning are just a few of the retreat styles you can choose from. Yes, you can choose some components of each theme for your retreat, but don’t try to do all the possibilities of each one or you will need another retreat to re-set.
God is doing the inviting; you are sending in your RSVP. Ask Him what His plans for you are during this precious time. You can’t do it “wrong” so don’t worry about that happening.
Plan your own Getaway with God and pack your bags. Adventure awaits!
[Letitia Suk is an author and life coach who is passionate about helping women create a purposeful life and experience the fullness God offers. She has served as a hospital chaplain for nearly a decade and is a sought- after speaker for women’s events and retreats. Suk has had more than 100 articles appear in various print publications and is
the author of Rhythms of Renewal and Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat. Suk lives in the Chicago area with her husband, Tom. They have four grown children and three grandchildren. Learn more about Letitia Suk, at www.letitiasuk. com. You can also follow her on Facebook (Letitia. Suk.Author) and Twitter (@ LetitiaSuk) ].