A few weeks ago, Joey and Courtney Lankford spoke at a Yebo Life dinner. (Read more about it here.) The couple shared about how they, along with their four children, were called to give away their belongings and become missionaries to South Africa.
When asked if surrendering to God required that he relent his pride, Joey responded, "I think I'd just come to the end of my rope. I had to make a decision: my way or God's way." And after spending three consecutive winter days in a barn, decide he did.
"Surrendering to God is like getting married. After you do it, all kinds of hard stuff starts coming to the surface. But you've got to make the choice to stay on the highway. Believe me, Satan will keep on tempting you to get off on an exit. Go ahead. Get off. You've already done better than 90% of the Christians out there. Just stop here."
That was probably the most impactful thing I've heard all year. Both surrendering to God and being married require that I choose to stay on the highway.
Last week, Tony and I arrived back in Cape Town after taking a 10-day trip along South Africa's east coast. The first six days were dedicated to a self-planned marriage retreat, and the last four were spent working with Love Story in Port Elizabeth. Tony and I have only been married for nine months, but we realized early on that this thing wasn't going to be easy. Believe me, I've been tempted to get off on an exit or two!
Conversations needed to be had. Questions needed to be answered. Prayers needed to be prayed. But everyday life was getting in the way. We were distracted and tired. So we finally resolved to going on a retreat together. We wanted to drive the Garden Route at some point. What better time and way to do it?
Relationship is something that must be fought for on a daily basis.
Hear me beloved married and single people: relationship with God, with your spouse, and with yourself must be fought for. Emotional, spiritual, and relational maturity don't just happen. Absolutely, God works in amazing and miraculous ways, but often, He requires action from us too.
So, why should you go on a spiritual retreat?
The purpose of our retreat was to work on our marriage. There were things that needed restoring. Things that needed God's attention and healing hand. We spent six days (yes, six whole days), talking through these kinds of questions:
- Are there people in our lives we need to forgive? (These people could be the ones closest to you—a spouse, a parent, a leader, a friend. They could even be yourself.) Then, we invited God to walk us through the forgiveness process.
- How do our families of origin approach things like money, conflict, grief, success, and sex? And how do we, as a new family, want to approach them?
- What "boxes" do we have each other in (e.g. dominant female, irresponsible male, etc.)? What truth do we need to speak over each other?
Whether you're married or single, what areas of your life need a bit of TLC? Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you along. I, more than Tony, am always tempted to check things off the list as quickly as possible, but it's important to sit, to cry, and to talk for as long as necessary (in my case, that nearly always translates to "for longer than expected"). Venturing into these areas, the ones that need restoring, is time-consuming and exhausting—emotionally, mentally, and spiritually! That brings me to reason #2.
OK, as cheesy as this is, I simply cannot resist... You cannot have "restoration" without "rest." Peter Scazzero wrote in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, "Theologian Robert Barron argued that at the heart of original sin is the refusal to accept God's rhythm for us. The essence of being in God's image is our ability, like God, to stop. We imitate God by stopping our work and resting."
We listen to sermons and read books about the importance of resting, but unfortunately, most of us don't. We're addicted to overactivity, and our society praises us for working excessively. How's this: Americans have less vacation time than other nationalities, and they work nine full weeks (350 hours) more per year than Western Europeans. As a direct result of overactivity, the World Health Organization has found America to be "the most anxious nation."
According to an article published by The New York Times, "The stress that goes along with working too much has been shown to lead to substance abuse, sleep disorders, anxiety, and physical problems like heart disease." Your body needs rest. It was created for rest. Take it!
Friend, if you're in need of retreating, do it. It's so, so good, and believe me, you and your relationships will be blessed.