It is amazing how one can advance in retreat.

By retreat, I do not mean literally taking steps in reverse, or going backwards, although that might involve a mental retracing of one’s steps to some critical point in time.

In some Christian communions we speak of “confession,” that is, admission of one’s faults, errors in ways of thinking, doing, or being. Sometimes, going back to the point of weakness can be helpful as acknowledging its lessons can help one gain mental, emotional or spiritual strength, or just claim wisdom made available there and then.

But retreat can happen even when there is no obvious “sin” to make reparation for, if I may use a religious term. Or simply put, retreat does not have to be about making up for past mistakes. The retreat that I speak of is making place, finding quiet space and time away from the busy-ness of life’s daily demands and the “must dos” on our agendas.

A month ago, SKIN-Rotterdam treated me to such a retreat. Along with other Women in Ministry, I travelled away from the busy routines to be at the Kluster (convent) with the Zusters van Denekamp.

While only one of the nuns led the sessions, the retreat was not about being with them as much as it was being with ourselves.

Quiet Retreat helps one to claim inner strength. That is something I learned as a young Catholic whose formation included retreats in plenty. In the quiet, wooded Dominican hillsides and calm river plains. As an adult, I find that such opportunities yield bonanza. At Denekamp they say,”Üit Rist Komt Kracht.” Indeed! I found the power to connect with myself and the other, so that my walking partner and I were able to share so deeply of our life’s experiences- inhibitions gone.

Rest is renewing, not only in the sense of physiological renewal of the cells and physical inner regeneration. It is inherently life renewing. And that brings power to think clearly, to recall the forgotten, to note detail that otherwise goes unnoticed, to enjoy the surrounding beauty that so often goes unseen, unheard, and uncared for. Industry has its place, yes. We must work to get things done but busyness does rob us of the power to become more than we can only dream about if we must truly become.

When I retreat, a single tree can tell a whole long story. And just one part can offer a detailed chapter. For example, a book about God’s sculptures would be long if it included all I saw through the barks of trees. Another varied chapter would deal with the shapes and personages that trunk/ branch junctions bring to mind, not to mention the plethora of leaf shapes. Being outside at retreat time is better than being in a Botany lab. You don’t have a timetable like I did when I studied Botany. During retreat I just simply, looked and enjoyed. That filled me with more awe, helped me breathe deeper, think clearer and claim freedom to be, freedom to see what I miss when I am so busy.

Yes, one finds power to advance even in, especially in  retreat.