A few weeks ago I blocked out two days to get away by myself. It’s never easy to break away from the daily demands of ministry and family. But when I finally did, I rediscovered an amazing thing. I went into airplane mode, and when I turned my phone on two days later, Flight MH370 was still missing, and Donald Sterling was still a few fries short of a happy meal.
This practice of breaking away to recalibrate is something Jesus prioritized.
Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself (John 6.15).
I’ve been challenged by Jesus’ example in four specific ways.
Jesus withdrew to refocus. He knew the people had an agenda. They wanted to make him a king. But Jesus knew their political agenda would be a distraction from his mission. Every leader will face distractions as they serve people with competing expectations. Time away helps us identify distracting priorities, surrender them, and refocus on the main thing.
Jesus withdrew to a specific place. He had his mountain. For you, it may be a beach, or a cabin in the woods. Where is the place that feels good to your soul? I like to go to the Jersey shore, where I can sit on the beach and walk the boardwalk. There’s something about the power and consistency of ocean waves that remind me how big God is and how small my problems are in comparison.
Jesus withdrew repeatedly. He went to his mountain “again.” Rest and reflection should be a regular rhythm in our lives, not an afterthought or random retreat. When is the last time you withdrew? You may not be able to make this a monthly practice immediately. But what would it look like for you to make this more consistent? Can you get away once a quarter? Once a year? Whatever you can do, do it, and then repeat it.
Jesus withdrew alone. This may be a challenge if you’re an extrovert. But every one of us, no mater our personality, need the quiet, peace, and perspective that only comes from solitude. Sometimes it’s only when every other voice disappears that we can reacquaint ourselves with the voice of the Father and the true condition of our souls.
Finally, here are a few practical tips if you’re fired up and ready to schedule a few days alone in your happy place.
- Read the Bible. Pick a character or a book and really meditate on it. During my last retreat I spent one morning slowly reading through the life of Elijah in 1 Kings 17-19.
- Get outside. Take a walk. Go for a run. Hike. Skip some rocks. Feel the wind in your face and the sand in your toes. Watch the sunset.
- Worship. Maybe it’s singing. Maybe it’s journaling. Maybe it’s just thinking. But stop producing and just connect with God.
- Take a nap. It’s more spiritual than you think! Seriously, a nap may be the best way to get rid of the guilt we feel if we’re not constantly getting stuff done.
- Write. Ask yourself some deep questions, and journal the answers. Spend some time reflecting.
- Listen to a life-changing sermon. What’s the most encouraging message you’ve ever heard? Take it with you and listen to it again.
- Meditate on the cross. Remember what Jesus did for you, and really embrace the reality of it again.
I’m officially giving you permission to get out your calendar and schedule a few days for yourself. Your team will like you better. Your kids will like you better. Your spouse will be glad you did. You may even like yourself a little better!
And at the end you’ll be relieved to make this important discovery.
The world didn’t end.