When Is a Retreat Not a Retreat?

Shakespeare (a writer) probably put it best: “To thine own self be true.”
It’s a lesson I’m still learning.

Even after almost 40 years of life on this planet, I’ve yet to accept my own personal limits and boundaries. I continue to push myself, to force myself to do things other people do with ease.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s good to stretch your limits, to extend yourself beyond what you believe you are capable of. But elasticity is not infinite, and certain boundaries need to be acknowledged before injury occurs.

I ran face first into one of those boundaries this weekend.

I signed up for a writing retreat in the foothills of Denver. Unfortunately, the weather put an ugly crimp in my plans. By the time I made it to the camp where the retreat was to be held, I was a wad of nerves on the verge of a complete come-apart. There was at least a foot of fresh snow on the ground, and another 12-28 inches forecasted. I’d gotten my 4WD stuck in the driveway at the lodge, and again at the camp, while heavy, wet snow continued to tumble from the sky overhead.

I felt like I’d stepped into a novel.
Someone else’s novel.
And I was one of the disposable TSTL* characters.

So I swallowed the horse pill of pride lodged in my throat, acknowledged defeat, and headed back down the mountain.

I retreated from the retreat. Does that make me a chicken? Maybe. But the conclusion I came to while I lay in bed at the Super 8 was that I would have failed at the retreat anyway, had I stayed, and quite possibly caused others to fail as well.

A retreat, by definition in this instance, is “a place one goes for peace.”

For me, peace is not found in a snowbound lodge in the wilderness. Or even a NOT snowbound lodge 
Call me crazy, but it’s easier for me to find peace at the mall, in a crowded restaurant, or on a city sidewalk. Or the beach. Or in my own bed, snuggled up with my dog. That’s just the way I’m wired.

Why do I keep fighting it? I don’t know. It’s hard for me to accept my idiosyncracies because they smack of weakness.

My daily reading the following morning included these verses from 1 Peter 5: 6-7 in The Message paraphrase.

“So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.”

It’s okay if I’m not a mountain woman. It’s okay if I hate to drive in the snow. It’s even okay if I retreat from a retreat I’ve already paid for because I’m uncomfortable there. Just like it’s okay to return an undercooked entree to the kitchen at a restaurant, or to ask for a different room at the hotel because the one you were assigned wasn’t properly cleaned.

Are you free to turn around and go a different direction?

Free to say “no” when everyone else is saying “yes”?

Free to take responsibility for your own personal likes and dislikes without fear of rejection, shame, or guilt?

I’m learning, and this weekend’s retreat was a valuable lesson.

*TSTL = Too Stupid To Live

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3 thoughts on “When Is a Retreat Not a Retreat?

  1. Jill Kemerer says:

    Good for you. You're right about it not working for you on any level! I would have high-tailed it out too!

  2. patti says:

    Wow! What an AMAZING post!

    Praise God you listened to His voice in your retreat.

    I have retreated from a retreat when I was AT the retreat! LOL.


  3. Niki Turner says:

    Ah, THANK YOU Jill and Patti for validating my decision. I've been beating on myself for being a chicken!
    Patti, this was the question that came to me on the way down the mountain: If you retreat from the retreat, does it become an advance?
    : )

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