In battle, retreat is not defeat. It is a recognition that the enemy has an advantage in that moment that is too costly to overcome. In our mission it is important to recognize that the enemy often has an advantage in our battle, in our own weakness and little faith. So a tactical retreat needs to be a rhythmic part of our “battle plan” so to speak.
Last weekend I charged up the hill at Neumann University on my bike to get the keys to my peace hermitage. (I like these dichotomous metaphors I’ve got going here) I was feeling a great need to retreat from the front lines and be encouraged by some concentrated time alone with God. I needed more stuff from God to do the big things that I am feeling called to do. I didn’t have much of an agenda but a fall back to quiet, nature and bible reading. I didn’t have any great revelations but I did rest greatly and I did sense God’s presence and love.
I read the book of Romans and God rescued it from the corner of my mind consumed in debate and rebellion against popular modernist doctrines prevalent in much of the mainline protestantism in which I was schooled. So many points of doctrine have been pulled from this letter! I didn’t want to dwell on the points (though they are good to think through). I found the relentless love of God setting us free from the law of sin and death, including the laws that the Christian point makers have been making since the era of modern biblical scholarship. I memorized some verses and put them on repeat in my mind.
Romans 8:38-39 “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor any other thing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I needed a retreat because the things we face seem capable at times of separating me from that love. Be it in my own psychology–my fear of rejection and my need to be liked, or in my relationships with others–conflicts that are hard to navigate and partners who are, like me, recovering from the sin addiction, or in the overwhelming power of our cultural gods–consumerism, scientific rationalism, egocentrism and racism to name a few. None of these things, nor any other thing that I am not mentioning or have even encountered yet will separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Retreat is a tactic in being the indefatigable missionary I need to be to break through to a resistant culture. There are many things that stand against us. The enemy is indeed strong but our base of operations, our stronghold is a person whose promise is true. I was really grateful to my wife especially that she let me make this time so that I could be deployed anew with fresh legs and stronger heart.