Retreat for Perspective

Give careful thought to your ways.
— Haggia 1:7-8

[part of the Sabbatical Series]

I was headed south on the Appalachian Trail from Carver’s Gap near Roan Mountain. The first few miles were some of the grandest views I’d ever seen on the Blue Ridge, and the 360-degree spans sweeping off the grassy balds made me giddy with delight. From there, though, it was another 5-mile push through dense forests before I once again broke out on top of Little Hump where I pitched my tent for the night.

Standing at my campsite, I could see miles east to Table Rock and Grandfather Mountain…and as many miles west over layers of ridges and hamlets. The vastness of the Appalachians was breathtaking. And I had a thought: if I were actually standing on the ridge of Grandfather Mountain, I would have no way of appreciating the landmark profile; it was only from miles away that I gained perspective. And that’s the thing about perspective: it takes distance and elevation to see clearly.

This is equally true in life and leadership.

Welcome to the final benefit I want to address in relation to taking personal retreats. Here’s the big idea: getting away from your usual routines—the nose-on-the-mirror syndrome—brings an intrinsic ability to evaluate and perceive the big picture with clarity. It doesn’t usually come any other way.

In my case, taking a retreat allowed me to see my life’s work from a place of “distance and elevation”: …and I found a truer (and much more hopeful) vantage than I had going in. Silence and solitude allowed me to perceive some of the ego and the fears, the compulsions and comparisons that were cluttering my path. As I did, clarity emerged effortlessly. My priorities and direction took on razor-sharp definition, and the angst-driven urgencies that were fueling much of my work were replaced by peaceful, purposeful movement and a lighter step. I’ll tell you, that’s a great trade!

Listen to something the prophet Haggai has to say about perspective:

You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it. This is what the Lord Almighty says: Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord.
— Haggai 1:6-8

Do you relate to these metaphors of tremendous exertion with poor results? Without perspective, we spin our wheels and make little progress; with it we suddenly know where we’re going and how to get there. The fog lifts, and the trail emerges.


Your Turn.

As we enter into the Advent season, there are many gifts available to us…and I’m not talking about presents; I’m talking about presence. As the usual manic pace of the corporate world eases a bit this month, use a little PTO to find some fresh perspective on what matters most in your life. Reclaim a Friday (at least the afternoon) and take a short personal retreat. (If you’re local in the Triad, try hanging out at St. Francis Springs Prayer Center and say hello to Father Louis!) See what a dose of silence and solitude will do for your perspective as one year closes and another opens.


Posted on December 2, 2015 .