Retreat and Return

The solution for me, surely, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes: a swinging pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return." ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gifts from the Sea

Our days are made for rhythm.

Rhythm brings beauty, an ebb and flow, a pulse. The alternative is to wrestle the day onto paper as static, rigid, unmovable chunks of time, making for stiff necks and unmet demands. But it looks good on paper.


I'm trying to teach our children about work and it's place in our lives, how God intended us to view it and how our culture distorts that.

Some work we enjoy. Other work we loathe, and the bills and those hard discussions often find themselves a back burner to simmer on while we bury ourselves in despotic urgencies.

There is satisfaction in work only when we put it in its proper light.

Work is a return from retreat. Work is what fills in after retreat has filled up.

The satisfying thing about work is that it leads to rest, and the satisfying thing about rest is that it leads to work. This is why retirees find part-time jobs or volunteer (I'm guessing). This is why our vacations sometimes feel too long. The physical need for rest after a long period of work is one reason God gifted us with Sabbath, and vice versa.

Our souls need a Sabbath.

This is the mind set I'd like to have and the rhythm I'd like to smooth my days over with. Retreat and return. Retreat and return.

Both are sacred.retreat2

I made two columns in my bullet journal - one for the returning and one for the retreats. I didn't worry about giving equal space to each, didn't care about too much of one or the other.

I simply put each item in the column I felt like it belonged to.

"Clean the floors" went in the return column, because this week cleaning the floors was just work. Just living. Just returning from a moment of retreat to find satisfaction in vinegar and water and peppermint oil and citrus. Slosh and sway.

Sometimes the weeks are full of sticky ice tea spills and dog prints and cobwebs growing in the corners and dry, dead grass from the field; the kind of week where you leave your shoes on inside.

I think I would put "clean the floors" under retreat on those weeks - because doesn't it feel like rest sometimes? To clean the trappings of living off the surfaces and make a clean slate for more sometimes feels like an indulgence - we get to start fresh. 

That's the Sabbath at work, ironically.

We get to start again but it takes work but maybe it's rest, after all.

In the retreat column go things like "exercise" and "water the garden".

Exercise, because seeing it as retreat is essential to getting it done. Retreating to solitude and mind-time and a good, hard sweating-out of the garbage I have been feeding myself.

Water the garden, because simple chores like that are free excuses to daydream and scheme and pray your life into God's plan.

Tiny tasks like paying a bill, organizing a drawer, and making a phone call become a return to the responsibilities of taking care of a household and stewarding the things. Alternating them with reading a chapter or organizing pictures on the computer layers a day in the rough burlap of work and the soft velvet of pleasure. Folded in like butter. Staggered like the rest between exercises in the weight room.

Heavy and light, work and rest, return and retreat.

Habits form our lives, our homes, our character. Good habits of a few simple things connect our day with the rhythm of created things - time, space, beauty, sweat.

Nothing is sustained in hurry. Everything comes in time.

For awhile now I've tried to front-load my days with all the retreat I can get. A slow morning, all the solitary things I love, all the quiet and stillness of the day crammed into wee hours, and by mid-morning I have nothing but work left in the day.

The real struggle between work and rest is that neither is completed when we separate the two. We think we have to stop working to rest and stop resting to work.

Retreat and return seem like a more natural approach and I thank God I have the freedom to choose this way for now. When the lines between retreat and return get blurry, when work looks like rest looks like work - then I know the Sabbath of Christ in me is working.

Come to Me, and He doesn't say all will be retreat.

All you who labor and are heavy ladencome find your work in Me, and I will give you rest.