Recommending Invitation to Retreat by Ruth Haley Barton ’81
Words: Laura Barwegen, Ed.D., Associate Professor of Christian Formation & Ministry, Department Chair
Photos: Tony Hughes
Laura Barwegen, Ed.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Formation & Ministry, Department Chair
On March 6, I found myself packing to go visit my father in Arizona for a much-needed spring break. Into my suitcase I threw a copy of Ruth Haley Barton’s text, Invitation to Retreat: The Gift and Necessity of Time Away with God (IVP Books, 2018). In the 70-degree coolness of an Arizona morning, I read that, “on retreat, we have the opportunity to literally change our pace by entering into different rhythms designed for the special purpose of being with God and God alone.” On Monday, March 9, 2020, before the world changed, this call to “different rhythms” and a “change of pace” resonated with my soul, not only as a call during retreat but a call for my life. I began to journal on what different rhythms might look like and started to realize how often we are pressed to be busy, to perform, and to complete our tasks well for the approval of others.
Practicing spiritual disciplines—such as prayer, meditation, service, journaling, Scripture reading, and worship— provides opportunities for us to silence the clamoring noise of this world and to listen for the still, small voice that calls us into deep relationship with our Lord.
On March 11, things changed. Significantly. Our rhythms were disrupted; our pace was modified. Most Wheaton students left campus and sheltered at a place they would call home through the rest of the semester. Faculty began teaching through Schoology, meetings began to be held through Zoom, and some of us attended Easter services in our pajamas on the deck. Many of these changes disrupted our habits. And yet, this disequilibrium may have awakened within us needs we had felt for quite some time and did not know how to address. One of my students poignantly wrote, “COVID-19 stripped away the idols that I had in my life and didn’t know it.”
Of course this time is not a retreat, but it can be a time of reflection and reorientation. I recommend Barton’s text for such a time as this. Her book helps us use this unique period to reflect on how to engage in life upon return. Barton doesn’t encourage a return to “normal” after a time away but instead encourages revisioning one’s life with God. This may be a time to “fashion a wilderness within that is always available and that we can always return to.” This is a renewed life with God.
...fashion a wilderness within that is always available and that we can always return to.