Most people I know are walking a journey with a very specific milestones they want to reach. It doesn’t matter where I am or who I’m speaking to – people are not content with where they are. They are anxiously awaiting the day where they can say that they’ve “made it”. Although I’m loving this new wave of ambition, I notice that people burnout, sacrifice self-care, disconnect from others, and become single-minded. In essence, people become a shell of themselves for the sake of the goal. Maybe you can relate...
Don’t worry, I’m not condemning you. Consider me to be your personal cheerleader calling you back to the center of yourself. I believe that you should be consistently growing and striving to be the best possible version of yourself. However, in the constant state of striving, you can choke out the small whisper of the Holy Spirit that prompts you to change direction, gather additional information, or just stop altogether. It’s in these moments that will determine whether you continue to try to make things happen in your own strength or submit to God’s will and let him make your name great!
One of the best ways you can ensure you stay aligned with God’s will and purpose for your life is to retreat. At first thought, I’m sure you’re thinking that I’m suggesting you should run in the opposite direction of whatever it is you’re facing. However, to retreat means to “pull back” or “withdraw to a quiet or secluded place”. When you retreat you take a power stance of submission before God. I recently learned the importance of retreating. In mid-October, I was blessed enough to attend a powerful health and wellness retreat on the beautiful island of Grenada. It was quite possibly the most pivotal moment in all of 2019 for me. Here’s what I learned:
Humility comes before honor
I used to think that pride meant arrogance but it is so much more than that. When we’re prideful, we stand in either overt or hidden superiority over others in terms of finances, beauty, rank, skill, educational background, or age. There are several instances in the Bible that highlights God’s viewpoint on pride but he specifically brought me to Proverbs 18:12:
"Before a downfall, the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor."
Although I am generally a humble person, 2019 has been a year where God has humbled me within the hidden places of my heart where I wasn’t looking. The process has been a painful and tiring one. One morning while I was spending time with God alone on the dock by the water, He showed me that every unpleasant experience from this year was an intentional one - all designed to shape and position me to where He can shine through me and my work in the coming year. However, it was important that I be humbled to the point where I could not boast about my own efforts but rather step aside and allow Him to have all the glory.
Fundamentals of leadership
Leadership is a funny thing. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and it is definitely something that cannot be forced. The retreat was lead by two women who I absolutely adore and admire as mentors and incredible women of Christ. I always felt like I was called into leadership in some form but was never sure of how I was supposed to walk it out. Was I supposed to be an executive of a company? Was I supposed to lead a movement on social justice? Should I run for a political office? My sights for achieving leadership status were on the outward recognition of the position. Instead, God wanted to me focus on the foundation.
I love having girlfriends! What does this have to do with leadership you ask? Well, it’s easy to get cliqued up – always meeting with your group for activities, to get advice, or just to lament about a rough time you’re going through. The problem with that is that the group can become a crutch and a distraction from your purpose. Although receiving reassurance from a friend group is great, it can often turn into seeking (and then needing) validation. I had a group of girlfriends who I would hang with several times a week. We lunched together, cried together, went to church together, etc. Unfortunately, I had a falling out with them right before this trip of which all of us would be attending. That meant that the hangouts weren’t going to be happening while on the retreat. I was concerned about feeling left out and disconnected while there. On the contrary, God gave me a revelation about leadership.
As I was walking back from lunch at the dock one afternoon, he whispered over my right ear, “Sometimes leaders walk alone.” Then He flashed the image of both of the leaders of the trip before me. Although they knew every person on the trip and poured into each one, they were never cliqued up to the point where they were isolated from opportunities for connection and growth. This taught me that I need to get my validation from God, not people, and that it comes when we have moments of solitude. Successful leaders extract validation from within. They also open themselves for character development and divine revelation by minimizing outside influences. His whisper let me know that the falling out was not a coincidence. It was an opportunity for me to carve out my leadership foundation.
God takes care of me even when I’m not striving
If you’ve been following me for a while, you should know that I am always working towards something. My personal conviction is that people should strive to be their very best and give their best to the people they’re called to serve. For me, living this out means that I am pounding the pavement, almost to the point of exhaustion. The drive behind this is usually worry – worry that I will be stuck, left behind, or end up in a worse situation.
When you’re on an island or resort, you don’t have much choice but to rest, relax, and melt into the atmosphere. Island life has a certain energy to it where toil and striving don’t necessarily fit. I was forced to leave my projects and stress at home. As I rested, I meditated on all the situations God has brought me through – unscathed. God also reminded me of Proverbs 19:23:
“The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.”
God takes care of those who submit to His will and love His ways. The best way to experience this is in the still, quiet moments of rest. Reveling in the rest on the island of Grenada allowed me to feel the weight of being taken care of as His child. Coming back from the trip, many of the projects I was stuck on and situations I was stressed about were either in process of being updated or I received revelation on how to move forward.
The moral of the story is that sometimes we need to retreat in order to graduate to the next level in our careers, businesses, relationships, and even within ourselves. We cannot keep pressing our foot on the gas to reach our goals without running out of steam before we get there. God has an aerial view for your life. When you retreat from striving for just a moment, he will invite you into the secret plans and solutions that you would not come up with on your own.
Take it all in stride, my friend.
Have you experienced revelations from God while on a retreat? Share below!