man at lake during sunset

When Jesus Refueled

Twice a year, I follow the example of Jesus. Before he launched his ministry with the disciples, Jesus entered into the wilderness. (In his case, it was to be tempted, but in many ways, it was ultimately preparation for what was to come.) You find the pattern of his withdrawal to think and to pray occurring regularly. As I have watched The Chosen again, the disciples note that Jesus disappears often. They are clueless as to why. I am not.

Years ago, I learned that my particular personality type feeds on relationships and interaction. . .until the tank has been run dry and I sprint to solitude. Today, I am much more aware than I was in my twenties, and I budget for solitude. I budget for solitude every morning and savor that early morning time alone. But I also budget key times a couple of times a year. I seek the solitude of a cabin in the woods, a local library where I am “invisible,” and a stack of books that I have been yearning to explore. I include a couple of breaks for recreation and exercise that allow me to return to that solitude with refreshment and new focus.

When I started this pattern, I was 37 years old. I was starving for the refueling that Jesus modeled. Today, I don’t find myself starving for it; I’m simply hungry for it. Through the years, the Lord has done some significant work in my heart and mind to discipline me as His child, to steel me for upcoming challenges, to refresh my body and mind with silence, and to give me significant opportunities to dig deeper in His word.

Most years I budget these times of solitude right before holidays. The holidays give me a chance to enjoy my family, but I’m even more ready for them because I have tended to my own soul beforehand. Without any intention toward melodrama, I will say simply this: I don’t know how I would have made the long haul of leading without these refueling retreats. Terry Weaver and I had many conversations in the Compass on Sunday mornings, and he said something to me years ago. I can’t quote exactly, but the theme is something like this: “I can tell when you have been away. You come back with a new fire, a new passion.”

And I believe he’s right. It was more than just an idea in a book that led to this. I just followed Jesus’ footsteps into the kind of solitude that refreshed HIM. Some years have been emotional; some have been practical. Some have been exceedingly difficult, like the year I spent a week reading Supreme Court case history to prepare myself for unique challenges that year. But most of the time, I find encouragement for my soul, ideas for my work, sustaining fellowship with old friends, and a renewed vigor for running the race that Christ set out before me.

And today, in the midst of it all, I’m still finding that the Scripture wows me as the Holy Spirit refuels my soul.

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