6 December 2022

Why stepping back might help you step forward

Restoration is vital after the mental and emotional strains of the pandemic. Picture: iStock

By Brian Holden 

14 February 2022

I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread

I hear echoes of those words of Bilbo Baggins everywhere. “I am just so tired.” “I don’t feel like I’ve had a holiday in two years.” “I caught COVID in my weeks off.” These are phrases that I have heard regularly since the start of this year. We have all been in this hard place of lockdown and pandemic for quite a while, and the temptation as restrictions lift is to make up for lost time. After all, we haven’t been doing much, so we have had enough time resting. 

But, like an athlete returning to competition after a long time off, we want to make sure our bodies and minds are right before that first sprint. We need to approach the Christian life out of a place of health. 

There is a difference between rest and restoration. Screen-based entertainment may allow me to rest, but it doesn’t restore me. We are called to be God’s body and join him in the restorative work he is doing, but we must allow ourselves to be restored first. 

When I need restoration, it’s often due mental and emotional strain. To rest, I need to withdraw to a place that doesn’t require anything of me. I need a place where I can sit quietly and be, rather than feel the compulsion to do. 

Jesus, too, felt the need for this practice. We read in Mark: 

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 

This was a pattern for this man, under a lot of pressure and expectation. Jesus knew the value of getting up and getting out of normal life to spend time with God. He modelled it and the writers of the Gospel made sure to capture it. 

I recently provided an opportunity for people to join me in retreat for a day. We spent time reflecting, praying and being restored by God. Here are some of their thoughts: 

We moved slowly through the day in a way that challenged my sense of mastery, and helped me to stand back and focus on what the Lord is calling me into. I didn’t get many things on my to-do list done on Tuesday; but I was left with a greater God-centred readiness for what we might do together. – Graham 

If I could give a picture of pre- and post-retreat time for me, it’s a bit like the difference between having a tangled ball of wool, and then being able to untangle it, find the end and make it a usable piece of wool again. Taking that time to spend with God, helps me to focus, recenter on the main thing, and then sort out all the different threads running around in my mind. By the end of the day, I feel refreshed, and ready to go again. – Karen 

How are you finding way to retreat and restore to advance God’s Kingdom? 

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