I recently took a step back from the busyness of life, family and work and joined a small group of women and took up Jesus’s invitation in Mark 6:31 to “go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” We spent two nights in the picturesque Magaliesburg mountains.
You may be hesitant to take leave from your many responsibilities, but if you’re wondering if you can afford to take “time off”, then answer this question: If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of others? And if you need any more convincing, here are five reasons to consider a Christian retreat:
Jesus practised Biblical self-care
In the gospels of Mark and Luke, we see how Jesus often took time out from the ordinary to connect with the extraordinary—God himself. While on earth, Jesus made time to nurture his relationship with his father. He spent time in prayer and reflection and, once recharged, made important decisions while alone with God. How much more do we ordinary mortals need that?
2. Explore and nurture spiritual disciplines
Most of us are familiar with Bible study, prayer, and fasting. But how much time do you spend on meditation, solitude, silence, or contemplative prayer? As the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect”. I’d like to believe I’m growing in meditating on the Bible, but I found silence a work in progress.
3. Try something new
For our small group, it was quite a novel idea to leave our makeup and electronic devices behind. But it was worth forgetting about ourselves to focus all our attention on God. Apart from practising spiritual disciplines and journaling, we also learnt about different types of rest, and received tips on health and nutrition. We also became vegans for the duration of our stay. The manager of the venue—Melodie Hill House—Cleo and her staff, Agnes and Stompie, worked hard in the kitchen to provide hearty and healthy meals and snacks. Who knew that plant-based meals could be interesting and filling?
4. Spend time in nature
Free from the shackles of deadlines and appointments, we enjoyed meeting with God and marvelled at the beauty of the trees, river, and forest. On the second day, we went “forest bathing”—basking in the winter sunshine, fresh air and birdsong. The venue also has a prayer labyrinth so you can have a “little talk” with Jesus.
5. Building and nurturing friendships
While the focus of the retreat was primarily to deepen our relationship with God, we had time to connect with each other during meal times and around the warm fireplace at night. We enjoyed catching up with one another after an enforced Covid hibernation; what a wonderful chance to deepen old friendships and build new ones.
The organiser and facilitator, Anne-Marie Botha, put together a fantastic programme—a brief overview of the different spiritual disciplines—and offered guided meditation interspersed with tips on health and nutrition, and plenty of time to put the disciplines into practice. What was obvious is that these were spiritual disciplines she lives by. She also provided plenty of encouragement and patiently answered the questions we had.
Overall, this was a wonderful time of rest, reflection and connection with God. Maybe a Christian retreat is not your thing. But taking time for yourself to rest, relax and recharge is highly recommended and the value of what it does for your inner being can never be underestimated. I hope you’ll give it a try. You are so worth it!