On March 2nd, Christians around the world will begin their annual Lenten pilgrimage with the observance of Ash Wednesday: a day in which we are called to acknowledge the ways in which we have wandered away from the truth of ourselves and are beckoned to journey back to our center. “Return to the Lord, your God,” says the prophet Joel, “for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.”
Of course, this invitation to return is always extended to us, but for a myriad of reasons it’s too easy to disregard it. After all, who has the time in our non-stop schedules to acknowledge even the bare minimum that we need a minute or two to simply catch our breath? I’ll do that later—after the bills are paid, the sidewalk is shoveled, the laundry is folded, the kids are bathed, and the dogs are fed. Except later keeps falling further and further down a seemingly never-ending to-do list as we race from one task to the next.
Or maybe we push the invitation away because we’re afraid that we actually can’t do everything all on our own, even though we try our darndest. Or maybe we push it away because we’re ashamed of how we’ve strayed and worry we’ve reached a point of no return. Indeed, maybe we inflict a punishment upon ourselves that God relents from and deny ourselves of that which we truly need.
It is for these reasons and more that the explicit invitation extended to Christians on Ash Wednesday and in the season of Lent to return to the Lord our God is absolutely needed. Because our to-do’s can wait. Because we do in fact need help. Because God is abounding in steadfast love.
In a similar way, the invitation to retreat is absolutely needed. Retreats, too, invite us to return to the truth of ourselves—that we are mortal creatures with real needs for the rest, care, and love we so often deny ourselves. Retreats invite us to take the breaths we regularly chase, but were breathed into our dusty bodies as a gift from God in the beginning. They invite us to remember a more lifegiving rhythm and give us the time and space to find our way back into it with creation as our guide as we observe the changing of the seasons, day giving way to night, waves lapping against a shoreline in warmer weather, the lifecycle of a butterfly.
There is far more to say about what retreating is and isn’t, so stay tuned for upcoming blogs that offer guidance, clarity, and tools for your own journey. And today—even if only for a minute or two—may you receive the invitation to return from your wandering and retreat where you are.
Reverend Annie Langseth is the Director of Spiritual Care at Mount Olivet Homes, the Director of Outreach & Creative Engagement at Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center, and an ordained minister in the ELCA.
25 for 25
We recognize now more than ever an urgency to retreat. Healthcare workers, social workers, and teachers need time away to rest and care for themselves. Directors and supervisors want to collaborate and relax with their staff for a day. Families are curious about new ways to spend time together in nature. Clergy, therapists, and spiritual directors crave silence, stillness, and solitude.
As a reminder, groups and individuals who book now for a retreat between February 28 and March 24 will receive 25% off their day retreat or overnight stay. Once you arrive, let our accommodation rooms, meal service, and indoor and outdoor amenities contribute to your restoration.
If you or someone you know could benefit from the gift of rest, inquire now by calling 952.469.2175 or by visiting this page.