Fasts, Retreats, and Sabbath Days

I use my laptop every day to correspond, plan appointments and trips, research issues affecting our family, interact with other people’s ideas, read the news, and of course, write. Sometimes, though, it feels like my PowerBook and I are becoming one. Even as I’m setting rules and limits on “screen and plug” time for our boys, I’m aware of my own need to de-tox. Fasts from pop culture promote creativity and strengthen weak areas of the soul, and I need them as much as my kids do (if not more).

A retreat is a break from everyday life taken purposefully for prayer and spiritual renewal. In North America, Christian camps and conference centers abound with opportunities for reflection and growth. A couple at our church, for example, raised three kids whose faith survived and even thrived in a relatively hostile public school environment. They firmly believe that a summer of Bible Study, friendships, and worship at a Christian camp helped their children fuel up spiritually before every school year. Scholarships and donations sometimes make camping or retreats a possibility for even low-income families.

The third type of R & R needed to survive pop culture is keeping the Sabbath. One of the best ways to rest is during a walk or hike in a quiet, scenic place. The poet Wendell Berry describes what the soul experiences on a walk:
What is the way to the woods, how do you go there?
By climbing up through the six days’ field,
kept in all the body’s years, the body’s
sorrow, weariness, and joy. By passing through
the narrow gate on the far side of that field
where the pasture grass of the body’s life gives way
to the high, original standing of the trees.
By coming into the shadow, the shadow
of the grace of the strait way’s ending,
the shadow of the mercy of light.

Why must the gate be narrow?
Because you cannot pass beyond it burdened.
To come into the woods you must leave behind
the six days’ world, all of it, all of its plans and hopes.
You must come without weapon or tool, alone,
expecting nothing, remembering nothing,
into the ease of sight, the brotherhood of eye and leaf.
Time without plugging into the “weapons or tools” of popular culture provides the ease of sight we need to return to Wendell Berry’s field. So that's what I'm about to do as I take a two-week hiatus from cyberspace to vacation with my family, leaving the weapon-slash-tool of my laptop waiting for me at home. I'll be back in early August. Peace be with you.

1 comment:

~Mark said...

My prayers for a refueling, refreshing time away! My best retreats have come when I take a week at a place I know in the country. 1 room, a bed and dresser, restroom, a radio I bring and strictly praise and worship music, and my Bible with study tools.

Amazing how the solitude with Him can kindle one's fire!