They called them retreats.
We couldn’t have told you what the word meant. Not when used in that context.
Usually, a group of teenagers was loaded into cars to ride to unfamiliar surroundings, mostly campgrounds in the middle of nowhere.
For two or three days, we engaged in ambitious activities—games, hikes, group discussions, and the like. Since we were usually thrown in with other teenagers we didn’t know, the stress level was high as we vied for the pretty girls’ attention and did our best to mark our territory and establish superiority over the other boys.
It wasn’t a relaxing time.
I am older now. Much older. The need to impress pretty females has faded into a dim memory (except for one particular Lovely Lady). Mostly, I leave the butting heads process to younger men anxious to leave their marks on their corner of the world.
I have a much better comprehension of how to retreat now. In a world filled with the imagery of battles and strife, the time to turn away from the fray and find a place in which to tend to wounds and basic emotional and spiritual needs is well within my power of discernment.
Quite obviously, the term is of military origin, although not necessarily in the sense in which we normally view it.
Somehow, we have been taught to believe retreat is the same as a rout, a defeat in battle. Although that might sometimes be the case, on many occasions a retreat is called simply to give the combatants a chance to rest and get ready to re-engage.
The wise leader always knew when his command was at the breaking point, the place where casualties would begin to mount catastrophically. Sounding the retreat was a way of living to fight another day—on full stomachs and well rested.
Retreat is rightfully a tool of battle, not an admission of defeat.
The warrior king who wrote many of the Psalms understood the value of the retreat. In the worst time imaginable, a time when he was fighting battles with his own son, he writes of sleeping soundly and once again arising to courage and faith. (Psalm 3:5,6)
In the most popular of all his writings, he speaks of lying down in green fields and of being led by still waters to be restored in soul and spirit. (Psalm 23:2,3)
David writes of the soul of the warrior at rest in the Prince of Peace.
I need that. Exactly that.
Perhaps, I’m not the only one.
Our lives, to the uninvolved bystander, are completely unlike the one this man-after-God’s-own-heart saw unfold before him thousands of years ago. And yet, for all that, our battles aren’t any less hard-fought, nor any less important.
My battles don’t look anything like those of folks around me, either. Still, battles they are, with casualties to be counted and wounds to be dressed.
Retreat must come. It must.
And Jesus told His followers it was time for them to retreat. (Mark 6:31) Well no, not in so many words. But, the meaning was exactly that. They had so much more ahead of them, and they needed to be rested and healed.
Come aside. Rest. Recover.
If our retreat is not preparation to re-enter the field of the battle, it is nothing more than admission of defeat. Complete and utter. Defeat.
Yes, it’s time—perhaps, past time—for a retreat, a time of healing. But, if that time isn’t used wisely, in preparation for what is yet to come, we could just as well have stayed out there swinging in exhaustion without stopping.
The man on the sidelines who is never coming back into the game is no longer a competitor.
If we’re called aside, it’s only for a short season.
A soldier fights. A servant serves. A teacher teaches.
Out there is where we fulfill our purpose. If the trumpet has sounded retreat, it is to get us ready to go back out there.
It’s time to stand.
They don’t know that
I go running home when I fall down
They don’t know Who picks me
Up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
‘Cause deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child.
(The Warrior is a Child ~ Twila Paris ~ © Universal Music Publishing Group ~ All rights reserved)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.