Reality returned with a vengeance Sunday night. Marnie and I had spent the weekend at a couples’ retreat. As is clearly implied in the phrase “couples’ retreat,” we were kid-free for nearly 48 hours. But by Sunday night, less than twelve hours back at home, the leisure and pace of the weekend felt like something that had happened a long time ago.
We safeguard our Sunday nights, but we can still feel the week ahead breathing down our necks. Laundry comes down from the hampers in bedrooms; trash needs to be taken to the street for Monday pick-up. Papers sent home on Friday have to be reviewed and signed by a parent. The everyday makes its presence felt even on Sunday.
Getting away for a weekend marriage retreat is always a good thing, but the value of a marriage retreat isn’t fully understood until you get home and have to sign school papers and take the trash to the street and empty the hampers. This is where marriage is lived out; this is where we practice loving each other.
We step away from the everyday in order to better live the everyday. We focus on our relationships so that we can live and love in the routines of daily life.
Jesus gave his disciples authority to preach and cast out demons, and then he sent them out to get after it. When they returned they were elated with their success, full of stories to tell. Jesus invited them to come away by themselves to get some rest (Mark 6:31).
No sooner had they found that quiet place than the needy crowds found them. Their escape was short lived. The many manifestations of human brokenness never take time off. God’s mercies may be new every morning, but so are details of our need.
What is noteworthy is Jesus’ response. No resentment, no complaining, no lamentations about relentless demands. Jesus has compassion.
There is a rhythm to life that Jesus modeled for us; we move between seasons of rest and retreat and seasons of intense engagement. We may discover God in the place of retreat, but God doesn’t intend for us to live there. What happens in the solitary place prepares us to engage the world.
A weekend away is good for a marriage (very good in fact). But marriage isn’t truly lived in the place of escape. The benefit of the escape is finding what we need to go back to the laundry and the school papers.
We sometimes escape to find God: retreats and conferences are available in abundance and offer much that is spiritually helpful. But the benefit of the escape is finding what we need to discover God in the everyday. Don’t resent the mundane tasks that confront you today or the needy people that seek you out. In such places, in the everyday, miracles happen. Don’t miss out.
Gracious God, I don’t want to grow weary of the places or people in whom you often reveal yourself. I don’t want to waste this day dreaming of an escape plan. Fill me with compassion for others and passion for my tasks. Use me today, and lead me to places of rest and refreshing that allow me to find you in the everyday. Amen.