Day Two at the Beach: The Lesson of Retreat and Return

The bare beauty of the channeled whelk tells me that one answer, and perhaps a first step, is in simplification of life, in cutting out some of the distractions. But how? Total retirement is not possible. I cannot shed my responsibilities. I cannot permanently  inhabit a desert island. I cannot be a monk in the midst of family life. I would not want to be. The solution for me, surely, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes, a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. In my periods of retreat, perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life. I can at least practice for these two weeks the simplification of outward life, as a beginning. I an follow this superficial clue and see where it leads. Here in beach living, I can try.” TGOTS,  p. 24 Many, I know, myself included are living more of a divided life than a fulfilling one. More of a fragmented life, than a whole one. More of a posture of surviving than thriving. Yet, when one reads the very words of Jesus, himself—it is the sense of the abundance of life that we are in search of in our “one wild and precious life.”Here on my beach pilgrimage, I find myself yet again, asking the same questions: How can I make life work better? What am I doing wrong? What steps can I talk to live and cultivate the abundant life Jesus said could be mine? How can I live in the ebb and flow of life and not fight the current so much?Anne Morrow Lindbergh gives us a clue on Day Two of our Pilgrimage.  It is to embrace the alternating rhythms of life rather than digging into accepting the same ole—same ole.  The life that seems inescapable is actually just that—escapable and I must learn this and to escape more often. We need rhythm. I need this time at the beach. My soul is craving it. The sighs are too deep for words and my stare at the ebbing horizon shows me that my mind is still busy with all of the distractions that I packed up and brought here. How will we get all of this done? Can’t we take a break now? What will people think of us if we cocoon and re-emerge? Will we even want to re-emerge?Lindbergh coaches us to begin to simplify the outer world as the first step—to let go of the so many things that burden us. Our time obligations, our involvements, our meetings and to shed them the way the hermit crab sheds his shell. This is what one does on a true retreat. You remove yourself from the begging of people and begin to listen to the begging of one’s own heart—the begging from God, perhaps. In the shedding, there is freedom and the freedom is what we all want, I think. There is an ebb and flow in life and there is not always ebb--neither is there always flow. There is a rhythm to everything that has life and to stay alive and live alive, I have to learn to live in rhythm. (In Chapter 2 and 3 of The Jesus Life, I go into this in much more detail).You move into a simpler flow and cadence of life—then return to your world with all of the breathless living and the plaque of hurry-sickness. You learn to live in the rhythm of both ways of living—not just one. There is time for both and there must be time for both if one longs to live the undivided life—or as I am calling it, the Jesus life.  He lived in this rhythm and so must I. There is absolutely nothing attractive about a person lives a manic life in search of the peace that God gives through rhythm—through time—through retreat.I am glad to be reminded that the life of retreat and return is a crucial and vital cadence that we must live. Today, I must give myself permission to live at the beach; to let go of all I brought here and to rid myself of all the burdens I have carried here. They do not fit in the suitcase one packs to live at the beach for a few weeks.And I must remember that all of these burdens will be there for me to pack up and resume carrying when we leave this place. But for now, there must be the beach.  There must be rhythm. The mountains will be there when I get back. But for now, I must let go of my mental, spiritual, emotional and relational backback and prepare to receive the Gift of the Sea.