The term retreat is far from ideal and some have stretched its meaning unmercifully. Originally it gained association with a certain type of ascetic withdrawal under rigid leadership. Today it is often applied to recreational holidays, planning conferences, religious emphasis days and vacations with religious overtones. Even within the military framework, the term bespeaks undesired military action during the course of a battle. An understanding of the term can be gained by a knowledge of its military counterpart. To retreat, for a military man, involves orderly retirement to a strong er position in order to re-organize with strength for a new assault upon the foe. Likewise, when a person makes a spiritual retreat, he withdraws from the nor mal and ordinary duties of his daily life in order to obtain or recoup spiritual strength for a new advance. The idea of a retreat is nothing new in the history of man. The impulse to retire from the confusion of cities, to break away from the anodyne of well-worn habit, to escape from humdrum of ordinary life into a place of seclusion and seek a renewal of life, has always been in the heart of man. The Word of God is replete with the accounts of those who withdrew .for a time to a solitary place. The Lord Jesus Christ often retired to a quiet place with His disciples (Mark 6:31). Moses retreated to Mt. Sinai for forty days of fasting and seeking God (Ex. 2:15 ff). The Apostle Paul found it necessary to be alone in the desert (Gal. 1 :17-18; 11:27). The writer of Reve lation, John the Apostle, had a forced retreat of great spiritual benefit on the isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:9). In Church history one reads of Pachomius, Benedict, Basil, Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux, Eberard Arnold, George Fox, and others who withdrew from society for varying periods of time for the deepest searching of their soul and a consideration of the things of God. Untold numbers of God’s people have turned aside from the well-worn broad paths into the narrow one of seclu sion for personal devotion and re-dedication. A retreat, therefore, consists in detachment from the claims of daily living for the purpose of looking upward to God through His Son Jesus Christ; inward to self in examination of one’s degree of devotion to the will of God, and outward to others with the renewed responsibility to serve the “ living and true God” more faithfully. Such a pattern is ideally suited for use in the military by a Chaplain. Just as the compass of the ship frequently needs to be adjusted, so from time to time the Christian’s spir itual life needs to be corrected from disturbing and mis leading influences of the world by renewing of one's mind to the will of God (Rom. 12:1-2). The whole purpose of a retreat is based on the in tention of the retreatant’s having communion with God. The nature of the period provides the most favorable condition for the retreatant to “ know him and the pow er of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suf ferings” (Phil. 3:10). In order to accomplish this the retreat provides: (1) A day of intensified spiritual guidance, instruction and counsel in spiritual truths under the leadership of a dedicated Retreatmaster. (2) A program directed to the spiritual needs of the individual retreatant. (3) An opportunity for each retreatant to examine and weigh maturely the issues of life facing him and to seek the will of God for his life. (4) An encouragement to be faithful in the daily practice of his Christian faith. (5) The development of a stronger relationship between the soldier and his home church. It is for the soldier who wants to find peace, wisdom and strength as well as for those who do not know what they seek, but who know that they must find something
Chaplain Benton with retreat leaders visiting a U.S. Army missile site for a retreat program. .
to give meaning and hope to life. One of the important aspects of the retreat is to help the retreatant experience communion with fellow soldiers of “ like precious faith.” Fellowship with other Christian servicemen works a profound effect on the lives of those who participate. This program offers a little of the back-home church fellowship for the lives of the men who are far from their home church and pastor. The pattern of the retreat itself is simple. It begins where the soldier is and seeks to introduce him to the Lord Jesus Christ as the One who should “have the pre eminence,” (Col. 1:19). It is dedicated to the specific result of deepening the spiritual life of the Christian soldier and so prepare him to serve his Lord more effectually. Such a program is normally operated during the hours of a normal military training day. After the ad vance announcement of the day’s activities, a selected number of interested participants are registered in ad vance. These men are then excused from regular train ing for the stated day and they report to the Chaplain for a day of concentrated spiritual training in the chapel. Under the leadership and direction of a Retreat- master, a full program of activities is scheduled. The day is not a day of ease but rather it involves business of an eternal nature which requires deep personal in volvement. There are four distinct characteristics to be embodied in every retreat. Innate to its operation, they are: Discipline, Devotion, Detachment and Decision. DISCIPLINE: It is essentially a discipline for liv ing a separated Christian life. This discipline is ex pressed in the terms which imply exercise and still at the same time it serves as a period of specialized train ing for the use of these in daily life. The retreatant has the opportunity, during the retreat, to engage in the practice of meditation and prayer. This can be strenu- ous work of intense spiritual and mental activity. Meditation is not formless and without content, but thinking in the immediate presence of the Lord. True prayer is never easy and for some it may be quite exact ing. The accompanying satisfaction and relief which it brings is seen in the quiet and peace that come into the lives of those men who enter into a new relationship with the Lord.
THE KING'S BUSINESS
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