“I testified. My mama cried. Black people died. When the other man lied.” These are the opening lyrics to Public Enemy’s 1991, “Shut ‘em down” and they are also the words that inspired my recent personal retreat. By the grace of God and the power of His vision I have been able to achieve the goals I set for the year. However, the months of intense focus and discipline took a toll on my emotional health. I felt myself getting short and snippy. Even if it didn’t escape from my lips, my heart was full of profane comments and ill feelings for pundits, politicians, and the people who still refuse to wear a mask. I found myself rolling my eyes, snarling my lips, and using words and phrases that I’m too saved and too educated to use so often. It was time for me to shut ‘em down. So, I took a personal retreat.
My personal retreat empowered me to do something I don’t think I’ve ever done before… Nothing. For five days, I had no goals, no objectives— no book to write, no script to read, no goals to set. Nothing. The only objective of my personal retreat was to simply exist. Yet, I ended up accomplishing quite a bit.
Everything Must Go
The purpose of my personal retreat was to declutter my mind and purge my spirit so that I would be empty and ready to receive God’s next blessing (and instruction) for me. I refused to rehash the past or rehearse the future. Anytime my mind floated from the present, I actively refused those thoughts. Regret and fear come from the past and future, respectively. I was determined to stay in the present moment. Therefore, no pain, regret, fear nor anxiety could clutter my world. I was free to just exist in the stillness with God. AND IT WAS AWESOME!!!
But it wasn’t easy.
The first day was pretty good. The second day was a disaster. Why? Because I was “checking in” three times a day on my phone. Each of those three times infected almost an hour of my day. This is how we get off track. The phone was trying to hijack my personal retreat and I wasn’t having it. 1 Corinthians 6:12 instructs us not to be mastered by anything. So, I put my phone on DND and all notifications were turned off. If I looked at my phone— and I did because I was addicted to it— there would be nothing to see. I reset and the last three days of my retreat were uninterrupted.
Granted, I needed to remind myself that nobody depends solely on me. Three days without me wouldn’t dismantle our lives. If I had any relationships that couldn’t survive three days of silence, they weren’t relationships worth continuing. If I have become the “be all” and “end all” for anyone, it means I have arrogantly inserted myself into God’s position for their lives. This powerful awareness gave me the comfort to shut ‘em down for the next three days.
In my former life, I felt a sense of pride for being run down and overworked. My favorite response to someone who asked how I was doing… “I’m exhausted. So busy I can’t think. I’ve only been in the US three days this month” Blah Blah Blah. I’m so important. Blah Blah. I’m so productive. Blah Blah Blah. Back then, my ego gave me a gold star for winning a race with myself while my physical and emotional health hung in the balance. Learn from me. Get over it! We’re Christians. Our lives are not perfect, but abundant. Being overworked and run down is not your best life. Don’t let the devil give you a trophy for it.
Doing nothing is my new superpower. I’ve committed to stillness one hour a day, one day a week and one week a year. I’m serious, too. Today I was on the phone with my BFF and right in the middle of our conversation the call disconnected. Why? Because my iPhone has a function for “downtime” and yours does, too. Use it. When the phone cut our call, we both knew what time it was. Time to shut ‘em down.
Something for Nothing
My goal for the personal retreat was to simply exist. I went in with questions. However, instead of incessant reading, writing, praying, meditating, strategizing to find answers, I simply existed in God’s presence. Jesus told us in Luke 10:42 that just sitting with him is “what is better” than running around doing distracted work. I went in with questions. If God wanted to answer. Fine. If not, then I must not need answers. But He answered…
I got something in my nothing. By refusing to revisit the past and rush to the future I was able to simply focus on the moment. In the quietness of the present, I saw myself clearly. I came to better understand my wants, my needs, the desires that God has planted in my heart. I faced my fears and made peace with my thorn. I didn’t wrestle with God for five days. I just sat and appreciated Him. I thanked him for making me marvelous. You, too. (Psalm 139:14) I got plenty of rest. I hydrated. I sang. I laughed alone in a room which… as you can imagine…is a little weird. I didn’t do one single thing to advance my life agenda. Yet, I emerged from my personal retreat with clarity, focus, and renewed energy.
Because I took the time to love me, I can dearly love you. I’m here for you…except for that one hour a day, one day a week, and one week in a year when I will be on a personal retreat with God.