by Hannah Baker, College of the Holy Cross
Restoration begins with a simple word, made up of four letters: rest. We see it in the spelling of the word, and we hear it in the pronunciation, but so often we completely overlook its presence in the larger word. More importantly, we miss what it can tell us about the act of restoring something. In order to experience restoration, we need to start with the simple concept of rest.
I was recently fortunate enough to spend a night at the Agape community with other members of the College of the Holy Cross’s interdenominational community. The theme that we had chosen for our retreat was “Restore,”a singular word selected as a topic to be considered and thought about more deeply throughout the weekend. What I had not expected though, was that it would be something that I actually experienced on a spiritual level during the 24 hour retreat.
As a praise and worship leader in Holy Cross’s interdenominational community, I was part of the planning team for our annual retreat. Initially, I was disappointed to find out that Holy Cross’s retreat center had been completely booked for the academic year, and that our community would not be going there. I felt as if we would not be able to have a good retreat if we could not go to the retreat center that was owned and operated by Holy Cross, itself. It’s definitely safe to say that I was very caught up in the specific details — the where and the when — and that I had lost focus of the reason for having a retreat in general — the why.
The reason that our community sought to hold a retreat — and the reason that I later understood was why we had selected the theme “Restore,” — was that taking time to slow down, reflect, and provide rest for the soul, is incredibly important to spiritual health.
In a world that encourages nonstop busyness, it is easy to work ourselves to exhaustion and say ‘yes’ to unending lists of responsibilities. Many view taking time for stillness as unnecessary and a waste of time. I am frequently guilty of falling into the trap of believing that time to myself is a luxury rather than a necessity that nourishes the well-being of my spirit.
Upon arriving at the Agape community, I was amazed by how quickly I felt completely at peace. Within five minutes of our arrival, I instantly felt relieved of the many stressors I had been dealing with back at school.
Agape team members met us right away with friendly smiles and welcoming hugs. I knew instantly that this retreat was going to be exactly what my spirit had been craving. This feeling that an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders was one that I experienced only on occasions that were few and far between.
“Simplify, simplify, simplify,” as quoted by Henry David Thoreau, was a phrase that echoed in my mind throughout the duration of my stay at Agape. I focused on really leaving behind the things that had been weighing me down.
It was not just enough that I had left my homework on campus and turned off my cell phone at the beginning of the car ride to Agape. In order to be present in the many beautiful moments that I experienced at Agape and gain as much from the retreat as possible, I needed to really be intentional about freeing my mind of these stressors. Doing so allowed me the headspace to direct my attention back to God, something that I had not been very good about for too long a period of time.
Restoration begins with a simple word, made up of four letters: rest. In some cases, physical rest — like getting enough sleep — is enough to restore different aspects of our being. It is important that we do not limit our rest to the kind that we experience physically, though.
What I found at Agape was a kind of rest that came from being reminded of where I need to make sure my priorities lie, and then taking the step to actually let go of things that had been keeping me from looking to what is really important in life.