Unforced Rhythms of Grace
We have wanted to facilitate residential retreats for such a long time.
The seed of this desire was planted while bringing some equipping to church leadership teams around creating a culture of prayer in their church communities. We noticed the difference in depth of engagement between the teams who were away from home for the purpose of learning and those who were hosting us in their own local contexts. Can you guess which teams were less distracted with the time to properly process, discuss and pray together? Yes, you’d be right.
So we began to wonder what it could look like to facilitate these equipping times within a retreat type setting.
Then we went into lockdown.
At first, we thought that idea was on hold. But as we began to observe the exhaustion of leaders especially, our focus changed from equipping to simply providing space for rest and renewal. It seemed counterintuitive to host a retreat online, inviting people to “retreat at home” but we decided to give it a try. And it worked!
It was a joy and profound privilege to facilitate space for people to encounter the presence of Jesus during an incredibly difficult and traumatic time within our world.
We knew that God had given us a new gift to develop and steward – the gift of facilitating space for rest, renewal and restoration.
So we were beyond excited to begin planning our first in-person, residential retreat! Then we began to hit some unexpected bumps in the road.
We are still in our pioneering years as 24-7 Prayer Scotland and resistance is just part of pioneering. The key is discernment. To discern when the resistance is just some rocks that need plowed up and removed or when it is something that requires pausing or even changing direction.
I have spent the majority of my years in ministry pioneering. I am used to pushing on, no matter how big and heavy the rocks are. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way ( a few times ) that sometimes it’s okay to take a break and return to the plowing later on. Or to just simply plow at a slower pace. I had to learn how “to take a real rest, to walk with [ Jesus ] and work with [ Jesus ] — watch how [ he ] does it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” ( Matthew 11:28-30 The Message ).
When processing my frustration with the resistance we were experiencing with my dear friend and 24-7 Prayer Scotland trustee Stella, the penny dropped. Stella was a good friend and pointed out some things around my personal health ( I am still recovering from the after-effects of Covid ). Some of the resistance I was experiencing in planning this retreat was my own health. My physical, mental and emotional stamina were at an unusually low capacity yet I was still pushing – like my health was simply an unwelcome rock in the field to be plowed up and thrown to the side.
I knew I could not plan and facilitate this retreat when I was living in contradiction to what we would be sharing, teaching and ( should be ) modelling at the retreat.
This has been an incredibly humbling decision for me as a leader. It is a vulnerable and pride-trampling thing to admit your own weakness. And for that weakness to initiate a decision that will disappoint others… It triggers all kinds of insecurities and concerns about performance and appearance for both 24-7 Prayer Scotland and myself as the leader. Yet I know this – Jesus is far more interested in our hearts and our obedience than in how we appear to others. And ultimately, I really do trust him that, if we choose to work at his pace – “the unforced rhythms of grace” – it will produce fruit far better than anything we could produce going at our own pace or at the pace of perceived expectations of others.
I share this in hopes it will be an encouragement to you if you are experiencing similar challenges. May you be blessed with Stella’s in your life who love you and love Jesus enough to be honest with you. May you be blessed with the deep knowing that you and all that you are – body, soul, mind, spirit – are precious to God, not stones to be plowed on through. May you be blessed to learn the “unforced rhythms of grace” and be content with the “well done” of Jesus as you work beside him rather than in step with the expectations of others or yourself.