Finding Your Resting Place
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“What I wouldn’t give to get alone for a day.”
We’ve all longed for some quite time. Rarely do we get as much as we want or need. When you do, you may be at a loss for what to do. Should you just sleep, do something special, or get all those neglected chores finished?
Jane Rubietta brings readers a practical tool built on her experience and research in the new book she has written, Resting Place. In this interview, we asked her to frame her concept of spiritual retreats within the context of personal fitness. If you've ever been stressed, troubled, or preoccupied while exercising, then this interview and her book are “must reads." If your workouts just don’t yield the results you expect, then prepare to discover a solution that will strengthen your spirit.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: What are spiritual retreats all about?
Jane Rubietta: A spiritual retreat is getting your soul away with God. We don’t have enough undivided attention with anyone, especially with God. A spiritual retreat is the giving of our time to Him and knowing that we are getting His undivided attention.
F&F: At the end of each chapter, you provide resourceful ideas for meditation, journaling, prayer, considering creation, being still, having reflection, and giving praise. How did you identify these as the key components of a spiritual retreat?
JR: These are tools that have evolved for me as a way to connect my heart and issues with God. They vary [from person to person] because we have such different personalities and different ways of connecting. People are wired differently. So not every tool will work for everyone, but some will work for all. The reason I include them is because if Christianity is not practical, then it doesn’t work for me. [This faith] can’t just be about “heaven”. I wanted to offer readers practical tools to connect their spirituality with their issues and with God.
F&F: Why should spiritual retreats be an important part of everyone’s personal fitness program?
JR: If we neglect our soul, we will die. We just can’t take care of our bodies; we have to take care of our hearts as well. There is obviously a disconnect between the physical and spiritual that people have. At some deep level people are aware of this. Because it takes time to be still with God, we are more likely to shortchange ourselves. We need to approach our spirituality as a non-negotiable, just as we often treat fitness and exercise. God has been wise enough to make the connections for us between heart, soul, and body.
F&F: How does the spiritual impact the physical?
JR: The more alive I am to God, the more alive I feel physically. Perhaps there is a chemical response to our time with God. When I take time with God, I have the energy to go work in the yard, clean the house, be alive to the people around me, and do other physical things.
F&F: What are the key things to keep in mind when planning a spiritual retreat?
JR: Where you go needs to feel comfortable physically to you. If a lounge chair at a state park by a stream makes you feel comfortable, then do that. If a hotel room is what you need, then do it. Ask yourself, “How long am I going to be gone?” Plan accordingly, with food, mats for lying down, appropriate walking shoes, and your own tools for being comfortable and meeting your needs. Bring a journal or something to record your journey. Bring a hymnal and a Bible along with other contemplative reading. I-pods are OK, but words from other people can sometimes keep us from hearing God’s word for us personally and hearing our own hearts. It is good to ask yourself, “What am I hoping will come from this?” What expectations do you have from God and yourself? The mountain may not shake and the bush may not burn. Be realistic about what the benefits will be.
F&F: What suggestions do you have for the person that is really busy and can’t get into the countryside alone for a weekend away from everyone? Can a spiritual retreat happen in a busy place for just an hour?
JR: Absolutely. What is important is your ability to concentrate on God. I’ve had some amazing quite times on a train or airplane. Is it a good substitute? No. But it can work. Wherever you feel comfortable in starting, do that. I find my appetite for God grows. Once I have an hour with Him, then I want two. Don’t let it be a guilt-based experience. Your spirituality should not be a list of “shoulds”. I want my relationship with God to be dynamic where He is constantly increasing my longing for Him. Jesus says, “I will draw all to me." So we need to invite Him to draw us to Him.
F&F: You talk about depression. How does it impact the physical and spiritual conditions of a person? What impact can a spiritual retreat have on the person dealing with depression?
JR: Aside from bio-chemical depression, there is an exogenous depression – a depression that is created by circumstances outside of us. Often depression is caused because we have lost ourselves. A spiritual retreat helps us find ourselves again. Depression says, “I don’t really matter. No one loves me.” A personal retreat validates who you are and that you are and that you matter to God. It also provides space for you to consider the source of your depression. Depression in general slows our bodies down and takes away our energy.
F&F: You also talk about anger. What do we most misunderstand about anger? How does a spiritual retreat help a person deal with anger in ways that physical exercise cannot?
JR: We’ve been taught that anger is not spiritual. Godly people don’t get angry. In fact, anger is a God-given gift. God created us with a capacity for anger. He said, be angry but don’t sin. We need to ask, “What is the root of my anger?” We have to notice that we are angry. We are not good at seeing that. We have to make sure we go deep with that. Often our real longing is a need to be loved and valued. That is a legitimate need.
Physical exercise can help us release our anger, but it doesn’t help us address the root of our anger. A personal retreat gives us space to do that before God in a safe way. Ideally, on a personal retreat you get in touch with your needs and then you work it out through exercise.
F&F: What is the “happiness quotient”? What role does it play in “resting”?
JR: George Mueller said, "My primary duty is to get myself happy before God.” The take-away from that is that it transforms your whole day. Trust is integral to rest. If you don’t feel safe, you don’t rest well. Psalm 23 talks about resting, relaxing, and trusting. We need to stop working and performing.
F&F: How do you feel the pursuit of peace impacts physical fitness?
JR: Solomon says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body.” A resting heart is a heart at peace. We are too busy pursuing our list of expectations, goals, and demands in our lives. I suspect we rarely pursue peace. We need to seek peace and pursue it. If we are pursuing God, then peace will result. Start your day with the question, “What will keep me from trusting God to be my resting place today?” Then ask yourself how you can find rest in your circumstances.
Reprinted with permission. Copyright © Faith & Fitness Magazine and Lifestyle Media Group. Faith & Fitness Magazine is a lifestyle resource to build physical and spiritual strength. It helps readers make connections between the Christian faith and the fitness lifestyle.
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