I really felt the need of a retreat this week, a day or two away at least, but my diary was jammed and my husband abroad so it simply couldn’t happen. I was a bit crotchety about it and wondered what to do.
I had a sense that there is always a solution, it just might not be the most obvious thing that presents itself. An idea based around a ‘staycation’ came to me as a way of doing what you can, rather than lamenting what you can’t manage. Instead of going away on retreat to a monastery or centre, I would carve out two hours out of every day and travel to somewhere local and manageable in order to take some time out with God and to rest.
I did a bit of research on what was nearby and free, within half an hour’s drive. For me places like art exhibitions and galleries, lunchtime concerts and services at the Cathedral in Gloucester all presented themselves as attractive – not far away and cheap or free, albeit needing a car. More locally, the park in front of my house has a bench next to a beautiful willow tree overlooking a large pond, and the field behind is full of golden shimmering wheat and criss crossed with public footpaths. So for six days I took two hours out of each day and went to pray and rest in these ways. I took communion on four of the days – always a highlight in terms of healing and restoration for me.
I made up the time that I would have been working by getting up early to fit in the things that needed to be done – luckily my working pattern is largely up to me to dictate. If yours isn’t, perhaps you can turn your lunch hours into retreat time while you sit in a park or library.
It was instructive and helpful for me to retreat this way rather than in a larger chunk of time away from home, as it helped me appreciate all the possibilties on my doorstep in ordinary life. It reminded me that I am not an automaton or robot, but a human, built for more than work and the habits we slide into. It showed me where I’ve strayed into territory that I’m not suited to and that makes me more stressed than usual. And where my insecurities have caused wobbles. Bringing all this before the throne of heaven on a daily basis has been a huge relief and I may well repeat this execrcise more often – aswell as going away for retreat.
In the main, I book retreat days and then get away for a few nights once or twice a year. It never feels enough but I work and study full time and have a family, so what is practical and possible is always the driver. I learned that there are always solutions, if we can liberate our thinking from what ‘should’ happen, and there are resources and possibilties available if we just look and see. God is to be found in the everyday aswell as the grand plan and seeking Him out is the thing that matters.