Somehow it’s already December, the fall semester at Columbia is finished, and you feel it in every bone in your body.
You are ready for a break.
You enter the door to your house, throw your stuff in your room, and declare it a school-free three weeks.
Here starts up again that job you had in the summer, the chores at your house, the connection with friends; and then go ahead and add in the Christmas shopping, the Christmas parties, the Christmas church concert, and the Christmas family gatherings.
Now after some detox from that chaos, slide on into yelling “Happy New Year”…blink twice, and you’re back at school.
Wait. What? How did that happen? (Kind of feels like how quickly the semester happened also, right?)
May I encourage you this Christmas “break” to truly find a way to take a break?
And to clarify before we get started, the following does not constitute a true break:
- Netflix binging
- Sleeping until 2 pm
- Staying up until 4 am…which is why you slept until 2 pm.
- Eating an entire bag of Doritos and calling it supper.
Got it? So, sure thing, you might do all of the above, but that’s not what I’m asking you to do. (AKA, don’t tell your parents that the reason you missed family breakfast was because the Associate Dean of Students told you to sleep in.)
What would truly refresh you from a full semester, and prepare your heart for another?
What would, in addition to good sleep, healthy food, and positive interactions with dear people, provide you with a clearer, more positive outlook on life?
What would help you hear from Jesus, and re-engage in the spiritual battles around us?
Enter the half-day spiritual retreat.
Retreating has become one of my favourite things to do (just ask the student leaders at Columbia each August during Leadership Training Week)!
I am provided a time to stop, to lay out my deepest desires, my concerns, the things weighing on my heart. And then a time to listen, to resist trying to figure everything out, to sit at His feet, at the throne of a King who invites me to Himself. It is an opportunity to replace lies with His truth. (Sounds good right?)
Honestly, retreating is a simple idea. (Remember, simple doesn’t always equal easy.) It is simple in that it only requires you, your time, your attention, a Bible…and maybe a journal, if that’s how you roll.
So now that I’ve convinced you, here’s the idea:
Step 1: Prepare
- Find a time that works; a time when you don’t have to rush off to work, or meet up with someone. Declare it your coffee date time with Jesus (ok, so you don’t have to say that to anyone, but it might help you to think of it this way).
- Put your phone on silent. Or leave it at home (and make sure people know where you’re going). If you were having coffee with a friend, you wouldn’t be on your phone the whole time (and if you would be, then we need to have a whole other conversation…)
- Find a quiet spot. If your house is crowded with people, maybe find a corner at the local library (a whole building dedicated to quietness!). If you live in a place where being outside for an extended period of time is safe during the winter months, perhaps consider the great outdoors. Ultimately, find a space that works for you.
Step 2: Reflect and Listen
Really, how you spend this time is up to you and how you best connect with Jesus. If you need any of the following ideas, feel free to use them.
One Idea: Ponder a couple of reflective questions, and ask Jesus to speak through your answers:
- What surprised me the most?
- Jesus, where did I see Your hand at work?
- How did I fail?
- How did I grow?
- What encouraged me the most?
- What prayers do I still want You to answer, God?
- Who or what can I invest in?
- What habit or attitude do I want to change?
- Who can keep me accountable?
- What gifts have You given me that I can practice at Columbia?
Another Idea: Reflect on a specific Scripture passage.
Read it slowly. Repeat it.
Notice words or phrases that stick out to you, and ask Jesus to give you insight.
(If you need a passage to start with, consider using Psalm 139:1-14.)
As you finish your retreat, consider what Jesus has revealed to you.
Does it involve another step? An action point? A person to follow up with? Contemplate what one way you can put this idea into practice.
I wish I could tell you that all of my retreat times have been incredible.
Sometimes they are simply rest and stepping away from the noise of the every day.
Sometimes Jesus gives me one word, one picture, one action item.
Sometimes Jesus shows me He just wants my attention (as in one outdoor retreat, I was trying to journal, and every time I opened my journal it started raining, and then every time I closed it, the rain stopped. The point wasn’t to productively produce something, but instead to be still and hear from Him.)
Whatever happens during your retreat, may you know that the Lord has been with you, and delights in you. He desires your heart.
This Christmas break, may you truly take a break!
Kathleen Doll is the Associate Dean of Students and Co-Director for the Applied Leadership program.