This is part 6 of a 7-part series on Personal Retreats that Brenda wrote for Everyone a Missionary in 2007. We also ran this series in 2016.Click here if you would like to start at the beginning of the series.
Jesus’ getaway with his Father launched him into his public ministry.
God’s little (and big) nudges come at any time and in many places. In varied ways He makes it clear that we are to act, refrain, speak, or go. Most everyday-encounters happen in unplanned moments. When our eyes are attentive and our hearts responsive, opportunities materialize to encourage a frazzled parent, leave an extra tip, shovel a driveway, or pray with a friend.
When my mom was in her last hours of life, we received unexpected company, a visit from my aunt and uncle. After a long week of our bedside vigil, we had received them and dozens of other visitors. I was tired of putting my emotions on hold to attend to the grieving of others. I wanted the last hours with my mom to be peacefully savored by our immediate family. I was frustrated.
Then God nudged. At first I was annoyed, but then I realized the potential. My aunt and uncle were not believers and the opportunity for an ideal back porch conversation emerged. I seized the moment and was able to witness, up close and very personally, the Spirit ushering my uncle into the Kingdom of God. Unexpectedly, my uncle died four months later, but not before bringing my aunt to the Throne of Grace, as well.
Dozens of times each year God nudges us here and there. It’s an exciting part of being his ambassador. But God also places a calling on our lives, a purpose directed by him which places us right where He wants us, sometimes with a smile, sometimes like Jonah, kicking and screaming. I believe that extended quiet time, just like Jesus’ desert retreat, can transition and launch God’s people into arenas of ministry only he can orchestrate.
Remember Moses and the burning bush? God’s mission for him was to turn Egypt upside down and initiate a freedom march to the land of Canaan.
What about Jonah and his memorable personal retreat within the belly of a fish? When his retreat ended, thanks to a high velocity belch, the people of Nineveh were never the same. Even Saul, an unbeliever, was the participant in a roadside encounter that led to a three-day personal retreat in Damascus. Those who are Gentile-believers and are reading this blog are the fruit of Paul’s ministry rippling through 2000 years of history.
In his book, A Place for God: A Guide to Spiritual Retreats and Retreat Centers, Timothy Jones writes
To spend time away acknowledges that another source lies at the root of who we are and where our lives lead . . . We turn to a God bigger than our plans . . . “You did not choose me,” Jesus told his followers, “but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” (John 15:16) If our job is not to work as though all hinges on us, but to join with what that great God is already doing, a retreat should have more the feel of an adventure than a strictly scheduled tour. We look for what God is doing, where he is leading, and then follow.
When did the Holy Spirit nudge your heart this week?