Verb – The act or process of withdrawing, especially from something hazardous, formidable, or unpleasant; the process of going backward or receding from a position or condition gained. To withdraw or retire in the face of or from action with an enemy, either due to defeat or in order to adopt a more favourable position
Noun – A place affording peace, quiet, privacy, or security.
The battle line in the snow: a smuggled moose head carefully concealed in bed under the blankets; antlers rising ominously like demon horns in the night. Under the cover of darkness, the perpetrators retreat to the sauna giddy with anticipation. In its warmth, new bonds of friendship are forged and old ones strengthened.
Meanwhile, the moose head achieves its desired effect. The target opens his bedroom door and is greeted by the almost otherworldly specter of horns rising from the blackness. Screams rise in decibel as well as pitch.
Once calm has been restored, the offended party plots his revenge. He sneaks through the night to carry out his diabolical revenge. Quiet footsteps, rustling of branches, scratches on the sauna wall echo unnaturally in the crisp night air. Shrieks of laughter from within the sauna walls turn to shrieks of terror; warm camaraderie to cold fear, visions of victory flee under the panic of attack. Women, who moments ago felt invincible, retreat into paralyzed helplessness.
This is retreat; escape from the daily pressure of life to connect, build up strength and reserves so that we do not retreat.
It is Monday morning and I have returned from retreat late the night before. The fridge is empty, the laundry basket overflowing. While Monday mornings at our house are typically chaotic, I feel like I have hit a new low as I send my children to school commando (due to the overflowing laundry basket) and with a shocking array of processed items in their lunch bags, (relating to the empty fridge.) I am reminded that in my absence nothing stopped. While I was apart to regroup and to strategize, my beloved family has continued on awaiting my return.
I am grateful to rejoin my troops, however, the enemy whispers lies into my exhaustion. Fear rises like moose antlers in the darkness. Having returned from retreat, I am tempted to retreat. The battle of the ordinary and mundane seems formidable, beyond my scope of resources. While I am pretty sure the laundry room will not defeat me, I worry that this invisible, gaping barrenness might. I worry that I have poured myself out, and will now be left empty. I fear that having spoken, the voice I most long to hear will be silent. What if I gave everything only to find there are no more reserves?
Has my temporary withdrawal to re-group and strategize left me in a more favourable position from which to re-engage; or in the face of what I deem formidable or unpleasant, will I lose ground or withdraw from the battle completely? Will the fear overshadow the joy?
The enemy scratches and rustles; panic mounts. I am tempted to raise the flag of surrender when I remember; I am not the general. I turn to Him for my marching orders and find my resolve strengthens. I am not of those who shrink back in defeat! (Hebrews 10:39)
When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God is with you . . . today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the LORD your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.
(Deuteronomy 20:1, 3-4)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand . . .