Necessary or Essential?

They are not just necessary, but essential. It's necessary to eat, but there are essential things I need to eat to keep me alive. The same is true to stay alive and growing spiritually. Like an American supermarket with aisle of various types of 'food,' we have aisle of spiritual practices from which to choose. But when it comes down to it, there is precious little that is essential. One of the essentials is the practice of retreat.

If you treat a retreat like a vacation or merely recovery from a crazy schedule, you're going to miss the essentialness of the practice. In as much as a retreat can be used to vacate from the regular schedule of life or can have a focused goal such as a concentrated time for study and reflection or completion of a project, the real essential of retreat are the twins of silence and solitude. 
Nothing...hear me again...nothing, will feed the soul to provide intimacy with God as will silence and solitude. These two disciplines are practiced in a concentrated form most effectively during retreat. These two disciplines on a retreat, or an extended period of time, fosters what every Christian spiritual guide since Jesus has taught regarding the necessary steps in growing in faith. 

Within the Scriptures, from the desert tradition, from Augustine, from monastics, from Calvin and the reformers, to present day Dallas Willard and other spiritual formation/ongoing discipleship gurus, all have said the same thing. If you want to grow, if you want faith to increase, if you desire to become more Christlike, if you want to live in the Kingdom of God, if you want holiness and sanctification...however your tribe likes to portray must grow in knowing God and self. 
The basic stages of knowing God and self are about data. We learn from information gathered. So we read or attend Bible studies, listen to sermons and teachers, go to conferences, take tests all in order to gain good information. I really don't think this should ever stop. There is so much to learn and the options for learning about God and self in this way are legion! 

But somewhere along the way the 'learning' must shift. The shift occurs when we put the book down and learn to rest in the knowledge we've accumulated and let experience now be our teacher. By this I mean let the words fall deep into our soul and give it the opportunity  for time to unearth buried experiences or thoughts. The most essential way you do this is through silence and solitude. 
Dallas Willard has said that silence and solitude are the two most radical disciplines for Western Christianity. That's a bold statement. But I think he is right. Nothing...and hear me again...nothing dislodges the attachments we have that keep us from holiness, sanctification, intimacy, Christlikeness, again however you want to state your spiritual goal as solitude and silence. 

But why are these two practices so radical for us? Because when you practice them you will not be able to control what happens; and that is the idol of Western Christianity. That is what we run from or try to squash quicker than any heresy of our control oriented sense of orthodoxy. We will be confronted with the truth about God and the truth about ourselves when we give space and time for silence and solitude. And the best environment in which to practice silence and solitude is on a retreat. 

It is the passion of Rhythm of Grace to teach about and provide opportunities for followers of Jesus to practice ways to know God and know self. We like and we use information to help the mind understand concepts regarding God and self. But we also know that complete learning and growth goes far beyond just information. So we work to provide various environments in which to move to experience in the context of trained guides and leaders. Each of our experiences provides some measure of silence and solitude. 

One way to practice is by joining us for our next Alone/Together retreat. Click here to learn more about it. Realizing everyone has various types of commitments and life styles we provide a variety levels in which you may participate from overnights to all day. Again, click here to learn more about our next retreat. 

Craig Babb