Retreats are for women. Goals are for men.
Now in some traditions, women are encouraged to make goals and men are encouraged to retreat.
But if push came to shove, you might admit that the Accuser of your soul has run a fairly solid marketing campaign on your thinking about retreats being for women.
Case in point how many exist for women on the field? How many for men? You can see organizations that also offer retreats under the Global Trellis resources. A quick check will show you that this lie has fruit also in our neck of the woods.
The casualties that retreating is “women’s work” has become legion on the field. Cranky men. Snappish spouses. Lethargic team
I’m going to say it: foolish pride. Listening more to the Accuser than the actual Lover of their souls. A
Below Sean Li of Field Life shares how he stopped believing this lie.
I was 42 years old and had been serving internationally for nearly 20 years before I took a break. I don’t know how I made it that long. But I know I just barely did.
I don’t mean a vacation or time off work during a holiday–those breaks came and went over the years. But, those times still left me mostly in charge: managing activities for the family or coordinating travel itineraries. Or, more often, facilitating workshops and speaking at our large staff “retreats.” You know–the kind where you’re meant to be relaxing in nature and enjoying time away from the hustle and bustle of ministry–but somehow still on the clock?
No, I mean the kind of break where you just show up, unplug, and stop serving others.
Oof! Honestly, that last statement would have felt like sacrilege to me a couple years ago. I’m a Kingdom worker for goodness sake. And, a ministry leader on top of that. Serving is what I’m called to do.
To make things worse, after decades at this pace, terms like rest and healing and renewal were fluffy words I associated with weakness, not the man I wanted to be. Today I look back and wonder, how unhealthy had I really become?
Maybe better put, how prideful had I become?
In 2017, our lives all but fell apart when we were faced with a mental health crisis for one of our six kids. We were living in Africa and helping grow a global organization. We were experienced cross-cultural workers and had weathered quite a lot already. For so many years our marriage, our family, our ministry, and our faith had somehow been enough.
This was different. We found ourselves asking questions we never had like “How are we going to make it through this and not lose hope?” And, even more alarming questions we never imagined we would ask like, “Where is God?” and, “Why has he lead us to a life on the field, only to abandon us on the streets of Nairobi while the hyenas wait for nightfall to come and rip us apart?”
The heartache was so deep and the fog of confusion so thick, we could barely remember what called us there in the first place.
Our story through tragedy has brought us to a place of redemption today, but it includes hospitalization and rehab and intensive counseling. I can hardly believe it now, but we celebrate it all.
I was shaken as a man, and broken as a leader. At some point, I was forced to stop serving and just focus on recovering. As our family was rebuilding, my wife gave me a gift. She blessed me to go to a retreat just for men living and working cross-culturally.
Perhaps for the first time, I gave myself permission to invest in my own soul.
Over the course of the week, I met with a Christian counselor and processed some trauma and unresolved grief. A whole team of professionals (counselors, coaches, pastoral care providers, financial advisers, doctors, the list goes on…) were there at my disposal. They’d come on their own dime, and not representing any particular team or organization.
I wasn’t in charge of anything!
I prayed. I think I felt something like Jesus must have when he would get away from the crowd to be alone or with the Father. I met other guys who were just like me–husbands and dads and brothers–allowing themselves to stop for a needed moment and decompress.
But, as restful as it was, that’s not even the best part. As God was healing me, I was remembering my calling.
I returned home with renewed vision for the relationships in my life, perspective on ministry and leadership, and confidence that God was still with us. He had been through it all.
My experience was transformational, in the truest sense of the word. In fact, it was so profound that I went back to the retreat the next year. No longer in crisis, my encounters with God the second time around were equally life-changing.
I’m convinced that building this type of break into my rhythm is going to help keep me healthy so my family and I can stay fruitful and have long term impact. I shouldn’t wait until the next crisis comes along to give myself the grace to pursue rest, healing and renewal. Neither should you. Neither should he.
Momentum Men’s Conference was created so guys who are global workers can have neutral, unbiased input from professionals into their lives–with no strings attached. I know first-hand how important this is in order to have personal and ministry vibrancy with each passing year on the field.
Please be more like the wise and not
I regret that I bought into the lies for so long. I regret that I missed the abundant life God had for me. Don’t be like the old me, instead be like the new me!
This week don’t miss out on the three fantastic parties. The three parties last week were so much fun! It’s not too late to join and win one of the 30 fantastic prizes.
Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash
I’m sorry to make such a wildly cynical comment publicly, but I’m afraid that it seems to me like retreats are for women…and rich men. 🙁 The few options I have seen for men serving overseas are SO expensive.
Anon, thanks for saying what others may be thinking! From what I know (so, limited!) the main organizations I know (Thrive, Azmera, even Velvet Ashes) are able to offer retreats at a lower cost than the men’s because they raise so much behind the scenes to offset the actual cost. So, I have a feeling, dollar for dollar, the retreats cost the same, but where the money comes is different. In part, back to fear that this lie is even perpetuated in our circles, people support “women’s” organizations to provide this kind of retreat. Our supporters also need to value retreats for men and donate to an organization like Momentum. I have more to say, but need to get ready for the Global Trellis party and will come back :)!