Rachael Groll shares a story about embracing rest, even when it wasn’t what she thought she needed. Now you can find the Kindred Mom book, Strong, Brave, and Beautiful: Stories of Hope for Moms in the Weeds, wherever books are sold. Subscribe to the Kindred Mom newsletter and receive a preview of the book today! Photo by Adam Jones on Unsplash
Going away on a retreat by myself was definitely not my idea. In fact, had you offered me a quiet trip away, I likely would have refused. However, part of my seminary assignment for the semester was to take a seclusion retreat to be alone with the Lord. Just Him and I. No people. No agenda. No activities. Just Jesus.
I am ashamed to admit He didn’t feel like enough.
I am constantly surrounded by people. Lots of people. And I like it that way. If I am alone for too long, I feel anxious and restless because it’s my nature to serve and love my people in abundance. So when this assignment was given at the beginning of the semester, I immediately started thinking of excuses for why I wouldn’t be able to complete it. Recent COVID quarantines had already robbed me of so many travel plans, I thought I had the perfect excuse for opting out. I was surprised my spiritual director didn’t agree.
“You can do this. You won’t be around anyone. It’s perfectly safe,” she urged.
Ugh. So much for blaming everything on COVID.
Once I realized I wouldn’t pass the class if I didn’t complete this retreat, I surrendered to the idea. I half-heartedly mentioned the situation to a friend as a prayer request because I knew my heart wasn’t in the right place. Instead of agreeing with me, this trip was going to be hard, my friend offered me the name of a ministry that hosts missionaries and pastors for spiritual retreats. Along with the referral, she encouraged me to jump in.
I reluctantly sent an email to determine availability and promptly forgot about it. A couple of weeks later, the ministry sent a response with details about a place they had available for me. All I needed to do was confirm my dates. There was no cost. A little surprised, I responded with some tentative dates and a confirmation email came immediately. It was all set. I was going. All I had to do was pack.
As I stepped foot onto the plane, I prayed a silent prayer. “Ok, Lord. I’m doing this. Whatever You want.”
My attitude resembled that of my teenager when I’ve pulled her away from her busy social life for a family vacation. She didn’t want to be there and didn’t dive headfirst into the fun, but I knew she was capable of leaving her phone and her friends for meaningful time together. I wonder if God sometimes feels like the parent of a teenager when it comes to my attitude, but just like I knew best for my daughter, I know He is the perfect parent and knows what I need before I do.
After a very long day of travel that included airplane mechanical issues, deplaning, delays, GPS issues, and a desperate prayer outside of the airport, I finally made it to the retreat home. I was exhausted. And hungry. And just coming to the realization that Uber Eats and Door Dash do not deliver to the middle of nowhere, even though I checked before leaving home.
As I walked inside, tears sprung to my eyes as I found waiting for me a basket of food, a welcoming note, and words that I desperately needed to hear.
“Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest awhile.” Mark 6:31 NASB
Rest was exactly what I needed.
After making myself a cup of tea and taking a quick shower, I climbed into bed and slept for 12 hours. When I woke up in the morning, I was overwhelmed by what I saw. In the dark and exhausted hours of the night, I had not noticed the beauty of the home I was in. The large windows in my room looked out to a beautiful river running between towering oaks covered in Spanish moss. I love oaks covered in Spanish moss. Love them. And no one knew that––but God did. As I listened to the waves crashing on the sides of the river, watching the moss swaying in the breeze, I felt the Lord say, “I love you.” Tears sprang to my eyes as I realized what I told everyone was really true. He is a good, good father. I didn’t want to move from this place. My comfortable bed, with a beautiful view, overwhelmed by the beauty of what was surrounding me.
Rest. Just rest.
The Lord created this space, this time for me to rest in His presence. I wasn’t anxious, or bored, or sad, but I was tired. Exhausted actually. I am always pouring myself out for others and this was God’s way of taking me gently by the hand and giving me space to just be His.
I stayed in bed all day. I don’t know the last time I stayed in bed all day––too long to remember.
I was so thankful for the gift of rest, and for a heavenly Father who knew what I needed.
Rachael Groll is a Wife, Mom, Missionary, and Author. She has a heart for pointing others to Christ. Look for her newest book, She Hears, everywhere books are sold this summer. She Hears is a Bible Study that takes a look at six women in the life of Jesus, looking at the ways that He tenderly speaks to women. You can enter to win a copy of the book by going to SheHears.org.