Last weekend I had the great opportunity to take part in a Lenten retreat. I have to admit, it was my first time taking such a spiritual get-away during Lent. It was just one day, a Saturday, but it was away from the parish in a beautiful setting at a local B&B. This is an annual event organized by a retired priest in my deanery, and I was blessed to be invited to take part.
The day was beautiful, if chilly. The sun was shining, and we were on a farm so we could wander around outside if we wanted to. There were sheep to go and visit with, a friendly dog to pet, and miles and miles of prairie landscape to appreciate.
The day did have a schedule; we spent time praying, there were 3 sessions run on the theme of ‘Praying our Baptismal Vows’, where we learned a little about the history and theology of baptism, then really engaged with the 6 baptismal vows – not as words on a page, but challenge and opportunity in our every day lives.
The discussions were lively, the chairs comfortable, the company delightful. Our B&B hostess provided amazing meals and snacks in a beautiful sunroom, we had some time for quiet conversations or reading or naps, and we prayed together.
It was gorgeous, and it was exactly what I needed.
Heading into the retreat, I was in a cranky head-space. I was stressed, I was tired, I had a lot left to do on my to-do list. The last thing I wanted to do was to get up early and head out of town for an unproductive day. Had I not been the leader of the sessions, I probably would have skipped out on the day.
And, had I done that, I would have missed out on a marvelous – and beneficial – time. The retreat was just that – not a running away in defeat, but a step back to re-energise. It was a time to get away from the never-ending hustle and bustle of Lenten (and everyday!) life. It was a time for rest, for learning, for being ministered to, for discussion, for being cared for, for laughter and love. It was a time without cell phones or computers, without negative energy, without distractions. It was a time to simply BE, not to have to DO. It was a time to re-focus myself, to re-vive my spirit in the community, to re-charge my batteries. It was a gift.
Sure, the to-do list was still waiting for me when I got home, the stressors were still present, the house was still a mess. But my perspective on them changed. The tasks on the list seemed less onerous, the stressors more tolerable, the house mess somehow less annoying (especially considering we live in a world of dishwashers and robot vacuums!).
While I can’t go on retreat every weekend, I am thankful that I was gifted with last weekend’s adventure. Especially in this self-reflective season of Lent, I’m blessed to have been reminded of the teaching of Psalms: “Be still and know that I am God!” (Ps. 46.10) – and that the first part of that directive is as important as the second.