Today is Labor Day in America. I must admit that, since I’ve become a solopreneur, I tend to ignore these secular weekday holidays and work anyway. (Since self-employed folks don’t get holiday pay, it’s been more about workflow and a desire to take other times off instead.) But as this holiday rolled around, I had a couple of conversations which led me to embrace this celebration of labor by taking myself on retreat. So, if you’re reading this post on the day it comes out, I’m retreating.
The first conversation was with a friend, and it was about when we would next have a phone conversation. She works for an established organization and thus has paid holidays. We usually talk on the weekend, but Labor Day evening worked for her, and when I said I might be working, she encouraged me to rethink that—and I have.
Initially, I thought I would take the prior Saturday as my retreat day, but last week’s workload was quite full. When I spoke with my spiritual director on Thursday afternoon, I was facing the reality that, in order to meet deadlines, I needed to work on Saturday. We ended up having an illuminating conversation about why I wanted to take a retreat day, and what I intended to do with it.
First, I told her, I wanted to “take” a free virtual retreat day currently being offered by the Shalem Institute, where I did my spiritual guidance training (over twenty years ago!). The retreat day incorporates the work of Howard Thurman, a Black theologian, and Shalem is offering it “to further explore Howard Thurman’s life and contemplative witness and what it might mean for us in today’s challenging world.”
I wanted to check out the retreat with the hope of recommending it to the antiracism discussion group at our church (and I will add a PS to this post after the retreat, to let you know what I think about it). While that’s not necessarily the “right” reason to take a retreat day (it “should” be about connecting more deeply with God), it’s honestly a part of my agenda. Another part of my agenda was deepening my own connections between Jesus and the disinherited people with whom he lived and ministered.
Yet another part of my agenda was to spend deeper time with God in stillness. I do take time each day to be still, to “check in” with God through prayer and contemplation. Much of my joyfulness in God comes through my morning walks, as I notice and give thanks for the beauty of creation and my good health and ability to get out and enjoy it. (Yes, my back is slowly getting better, thanks be to God!)
In talking with my spiritual director, I also realized how the “agenda” of the Thurman retreat and being still with God probably weren’t compatible. And yet…why do I think I need to take “deeper” time with God in stillness? As we talked about where I’ve been experiencing the Spirit’s presence in my life lately (in all of the above, and most especially in the Psalming Our Disorientation virtual retreat day that I led ten days ago), I humbly and awe-fully realized that I have reached a point in my spiritual life where I am fundamentally open to God’s presence in my life on a regular basis. I don’t need to “retreat” in order to connect. I have “done the work,” I keep doing the work, and connecting with God now happens naturally.
Wow. I’m definitely not a saint, but to realize—and explicitly acknowledge—that I have that ongoing, deep, connected relationship with God…well, it’s deeply humbling and I am very grateful.
And so, I will be taking an antiracist agenda into my Labor Day retreat day. I will trust that the Spirit is with me, as usual. I will trust that I am open, as usual. And I will let God take care of the rest of the agenda.
When did you last go on retreat? What agendas did you take with you? Might you also need to take a retreat day sometime soon?
P.S. As promised, here is my assessment of the retreat: It was interesting and thought-provoking to learn more about one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mentors and I appreciate Howard Thurman’s ultimate focus on Jesus’ commandment to love our enemies. It sparked some helpful reflections for me, and I do wish there had been more connection with current events, but perhaps the good reflection questions were meant to lead me in that direction, and I have more reflecting to do.