We, my friends, are at war.
Think about life and the things we must do to confront, engage, defend or advance upon just to stay sane, and for some, to stay alive. The externals are enough to bring the stoutest of heart to fainting.
Tornadoes and drought and double hurricanes. Oh. My.
Then there are the things that reside closer to home, the stuff that lives in the interior, underneath the surface of maintaining the status quo.
Finances and jobs and family blow-ups. Oh. My.
What is there to be done when one is hemmed in, pressed upon, backed up against?
Some are inclined to fight harder with shoulders braced and stomachs knotted.
Some are inclined to voice complaint upon complaint upon complaint in a never ending swirl of social media soup.
Some are inclined to deny the pain of being human with plastered smiles and Pinterest perfection.
Who has considered the power of the blank spaces? The power of the pull back? The genius of getting low?
Who has considered the strategy of retreat?
General George Washington recognized the strategy of retreat when he engaged his troops against much superior British forces during the Revolutionary War. Washington held the belief that as long as he kept a working army on the ground there was always a chance England could be defeated. This meant that his army was never in a position where they became trapped without a means of escape. Washington’s goal was to always have an army ready for another day. He employed several retreat missions…what looked like running away…to keep his troops alive and in the end be able to defeat a much larger and well-armed foe.
Jesus knows the power of retreat, even retreat on a cross to bring about the greatest strategic win of all time: Redemption.
Yet He often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.
Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.
Jesus knew how to get away, how to get low, and many times he brought His friends with him. He was not afraid of the quiet. He was not unnerved by the isolation. He did not avoid the desert places, because He knew they were strategic. If we look closely at the biblical narrative we will see that many of these “retreats” either preceded or followed a major in-breaking of God. Like healing and crazy deliverances and the deliverance of crazies.
Jesus is my Captain.
He is my example for employing the strategy of retreat. It is there that I gain His perspective on everything that may be going right with my life and everything that may be going so very wrong. I am learning the power of retreat for a season so that I can see better, love better and even when necessary, fight better. I am learning to be ready for another day.
I have put away the hard work of writing for much of the summer. As much I am compelled to put thoughts to paper or laptop, I felt God say to lay it down for a few weeks. I needed to let some things percolate. I needed to let some things go. I needed to let other things rise to the surface and, by retreating from my normal routine, the way has become a bit clearer.
This summer I have retreated to a wedding, a garden, a stream, a beach, a book, a journal, a closet, a coffee shop, a bench, a couch and the inside of a 20 minute nap. In these retreats, I’ve recovered, repented, re-aligned, re-purposed and re-acquainted myself with what is most needed…listening to the still small, voice of my Captain.
All strategies, these, to ready me for the next time I must engage the fight.
We are all at war. Therefore is imperative that we understand the power of retreat to gain in the quiet places what we cannot in the midst of the battle. It may be the bravest thing we can do.
He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight… – Sun Tzu in the Art of War.