Depending on the context that word is used in, it can be either negative or positive. Retreat is something you do not want to do in a battle; you want to win, to advance, to conquer, not to withdraw in defeat or disarray. It means that somebody has given up on something; the first definition Webster gives for retreat is “an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable.” That implies weakness, fear, inability to do something.
And yet more often that word is used in a positive sense. We speak of the places we go to get away. Webster lists “refuge” as a synonym for retreat, “a place of privacy or safety.” It means almost the same as the above, I suppose, because we go there to get away from something difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable. But to use the word this way suggests we have chosen the retreat, we know we need it, and when we return we will be able to face whatever it was that had battered us down.
My husband and I spent last weekend on retreat with the other youth group leaders from our church. We didn’t go far—only to a camp about an hour out of the city, but what a difference that hour made. There we found a cozy bunkhouse and kitchen surrounded by trees and bushes, with a sports field and playground. From the porch, we could glimpse past the trees the blue waters of the lake.
The parish priest came out Friday night to say Mass. After playing some games to get to know each other, we spent time praying together. The next day, we played, learned, prayed, listened. We got to know the other members of our group—the people we’ll be working with over the next year as we reach out to the youth of our church and community. We spent time with the One Who has called us to this, deepening our relationship with Him and thinking about how we can live our faith for the youth.
It was restful and relaxing, refreshing and fun. I needed that withdrawal, that chance to get away from the busyness of life and the little things I too often let intrude on the more important things. I knew I had unconsciously been too busy for God; I had let myself grow far from Him and that was affecting the other relationships in my life. I was, in a way, in retreat from God, slowly getting pushed away from Him. The time away on the weekend gave me time to renew my relationship with Him and to once again seek refuge in Him so that I can face whatever difficult or disagreeable things life may throw at me.
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,