I’m busy preparing for
leading a talk on ‘taking a retreat’ later tonight.  I am battling. 

The word ‘retreat’ strikes
me as avoidance.  I wonder what
gives us(this is a white South African group) the right to take a retreat. 
When is it appropriate and when is it not?  When I read about Jesus’ retreats it seems to follow a
specific rhythm … Jesus engages … Jesus retreats … Jesus engages.

With myself and other people
who are caught in the busyness of life, retreat can be counterproductive when
it becomes an energizing force that makes us faster in the rat-race.  I know this sounds odd.  But if we have lived in a dualism of
spirit/flesh how will retreat help us in the flesh how will it produce a counter story to the money-making status-seeking story?

I’m also wondering about the
places where we go on retreat … isn’t it avoidance … and another form of entitlement?  How would a retreat in a hotel differ from a retreat in a
squatter camp?  Shouldn’t we offer
our brothers and sisters from the squatter camps retreat spots in the rich suburbs and venture into the
squatter camps for our retreats? 

Would Jesus describe his
frequent withdrawals as retreats? 
Isn’t “withdrawal” a better image than retreating?  In Luke 5.16 we read one of the classic
texts on Jesus’ pattern of ministry. 
He engages … healing a leper and many others … then his popularity grows
… and he withdraws to a DESOLATE place to pray. This desolate place was not a
metaphor but a physical space of desolation – usually associated with a desert
or wilderness.

I find the withdrawal image
very helpful, especially because it has in the last decade been associated with
drug use.  We say “he/she has
withdrawal symptoms.”  In order for
most of us to function in the rhythms of the kingdom we have to rid ourselves
of the addictions that blind us from the realities around us.  But before we can rid ourselves we have
to admit that we are addicts. We have to be in a desolate place in order to face our desolation …

Church of the Savior has
written
wonderfully convicting words about this:

"We have not yet faced
one basic and inescapable fact:

WE ARE CULTURAL
ADDICTS AND WE CANNOT BREAK THIS ADDICTION ALONE.

Finally seeing this
truth really “getting it” that we are addicted to the very culture and the very
way in which we live is the beginning of true freedom. When we finally see that
we are addicted to a culture of comfort, security, competition, praise, staying
busy, controlling people, being in shallow relationships, having too much or too
little money, worrying, seeing ourselves as superior or inferior to others that
a vast assortment of sensations, behaviors, substances and activities keep us
disconnected from our real feelings and needs and disconnected from God we can
then unmask the false nature of this cultural system and see that it can never
give us what we long for. We will be able to see at last how much we have
depended on this false system, and how utterly helpless we are to break our
dependence and to heal ourselves.

Then, together with every alcoholic or drug addict who has hit
bottom and cried out for help, we too will cry out for a Saviour and for a
faithful community to save us from our cultural addiction. At this point,
humbled and ready to receive mercy and healing love, we see the truth and
commit ourselves to becoming recovering cultural addicts and to being used by
God in whatever ways God chooses."

 These are some of the thoughts going through my mind as I think about the concept of classic retreats …