One of the best gifts I received this year came from my family in the form of a plane ticket.
Tom Wolfe’s line about “going home again” contains a great deal of truth. Things change, people change, we change as time and experience change us. Wolfe may be right but “going home again” has become an opportunity for a needed retreat. I suspect that my family knew I needed this retreat time despite my protestations that there is too much that needs to be done. ‘Too much’ was becoming my mantra. There was too much to do at work, at home, at living to just stop and take advantage of life. I’d become restless because there was ‘too much’ to do.
My family knows that the ocean gives me energy and life. There is something about the smell of salt-saturated air infused with the beach grasses and mud of a tidal bed that invigorates me. The sound of waves gently lapping the posts of a dock on Bogue Sound or the crash of a wave meeting the shoreline of Atlantic Beach that helps me re-order the thoughts of work and life. I have had similar experiences on the Pacific beaches of Northern California and Hawaii yet it is different on my North Carolina retreat since this is home.
The weather during my retreat has been phenomenally spectacular. The abnormally warm January temperatures are quite a contrast to the frigid ones in Idaho. They provide me an opportunity to be outdoors and to take care of projects that would otherwise go undone. These warmer temperatures may not have been the character-building ones like Garrison Keillor would describe of his Lake Wobegon hometown. Instead of character building, my retreat provided me with character restoring time.
Retreat time isn’t about building character but centers on the notion of renewal of character. It is time to remember who and whose we are. It restores our spirit through solitary walks along beachs or mountain trails. It refreshes idle hands by engaging them in necessary work that may be quite different from our normal employment. Retreat time allows for moments to become quiet so that we can hear what God has been saying to us all along.
My coastal retreat will end soon and I will return to the people I care about and the work that I am called to do. I will do so refreshed for the task. I will come home again knowing that I am changed and the people and place I left behind have changed too. I will return knowing there is still much to do but renewed for the tasks ahead.