Rest and Retreat
Words by Keira Kielmeyer
It was a much-needed weekend away. Two days of pine trees, lake views, and cabin living. We unpacked our van and brisk mountain air filled our dust-stained desert lungs. I thought to myself, Can we stay forever? My sons must have had the same sentiment as they leaped from their car seats and ran through the open grassy field, smiles beaming across their faces. The consistent triple-digit temperatures in Phoenix had rendered us homebound for days on end. The lack of fresh air had gone to our heads and left us feeling worn out and desperate for reprieve. A trip to the mountains to reconnect with God’s good creation seemed perfect for us.
We kicked off the day with a paddle boat ride on the water. My sons’ bright blue eyes grew wide at the mention of getting out on the lake. Slow and steady, we drifted from the dock out to the middle of the water. The storm the night before had left the skies clear, bright blue with puffy white clouds scattered and surrounding us. A cool breeze rustled through the pines as a flock of geese took flight from the water in one powerful, collective motion. Even my boys were still as we watched tiny fish make ripples in the water. This was quiet retreat if ever I’ve experienced it.
As a mom of three very young boys, the words “quiet” and “retreat” are usually foreign concepts to me. The days are long, and I wear them like my husband’s old football jersey—worn out and haggard. Shouts of joy when they build the Lego set they’ve been working on for days. Screams of anguish when brother takes the toy they wanted. Growls of anger when broccoli was not what they ordered that day. Squeals of excitement when dad is home. Even a quick trip to the bathroom is done in tandem with little feet and loud inquisitive voices.
Albeit mostly adorable, the noise seems constant in my life. The looping sound grinds on me like sandpaper to wood, wearing me down slowly. This sanding can be refining, bringing forth beauty and growth within me. It can also be an uprooting of the ugly brokenness inside me.
Anger and impatience had become guests who overstayed their welcome in our home. I had spent the last few weeks confronted with the noise and the weight of my sin. I needed reprieve. It seemed impossible to find renewal in the middle of the chaos, heaviness, and noise back at home. This vacation was an attempt to escape the heat, but also, it was the chance for me to find a quiet hiding place to refresh my heart.
I found myself looking to clear mountain air, pristine lake views, and time away in this paradise for my soul’s renewal. Are you tired and weary? Searching, longing for reprieve from the daily circumstances that weigh heavy on your heart? Where will you turn for rest this summer? Is a summer vacation the thing that you’re looking to for a quiet hiding place and renewal?
The words of Psalm 27:5a offer what we’re looking for: “For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble.”
The psalmist wrote of how his enemies surrounded him, but instead of asking God to help him escape those who were pursuing him, he acknowledged that God was his safe place in the midst of his troubles. He didn’t ask to be removed from his circumstances for a mountain getaway; he wanted God to sustain him according to his promises. He knew he didn’t need to escape to find reprieve; he needed God to sustain him while he faced trials.
Too often we look to our circumstances and ask God to remove us from the situations that cause us pain. Escape seems easier, if only momentarily, than to stand and face the trials before us. And yet, the psalmist says, “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word” (Ps. 119:114). God provides the tranquility of a mountain getaway amidst the pages of his story. No vacation necessary. The quiet retreat we so desperately seek can be found at our kitchen table in God’s Word. Our hope for soul renewal is in him and can be found in his truth—that he will sustain us in the face of our enemies.
When we search for hope by escaping our everyday lives, we come back wanting. Like water through a canyon, distance does not chip away at each of the trials awaiting us at home. It merely allows us to avoid them. Escaping not only prolongs the inevitable confrontation with the struggles of life, it defers opportunities for God to grow us through the trials. If we are looking to this “retreat” to heal us, it will only leave us stagnant and farther from who he’s shaping us to be.
My eyes switched back to the lake. Smooth as silk, reflecting the beauty of creation surrounding the waters. God says his Word, his presence, are more awe-inspiring, more refreshing, more life-giving than the scene laid before me, taking my breath away. The brokenness of sin had taken its toll on my heart, leading me to believe the creation was more glorious than the Creator himself. But because of Jesus, his death to end all death, his life to give all life, God’s Spirit indwells me. He empowers me and brings true renewal through his Word.
Can a summer vacation bring rest and reprieve? Absolutely! Some time away can offer a fresh perspective and welcome reset for our hearts. But this weekend away offered me something greater; it pointed me to the God who brings true renewal for my soul and reminded me I can experience true renewal even when I’m surrounded by the noise of my busy life. It showed me that my need to recharge can be met without leaving my circumstances, but instead by meeting God in the midst of them and trusting him to by my safe hiding place.