The beautiful state of Tennessee was the backdrop of one of my best ever retreat experiences recently. What made this particular weekend so special? These sweet girls remembered to include the white space- the beautiful balance of activity with rest.
Have you ever noticed how the empty margins around the printed page in a book (i.e. white space) set spatial boundaries that give your eyes time to rest from reading?
The white space is there for a reason.
I once subscribed to a weekly national news magazine that, for the sake of saving money, moved to fewer pages on cheaper paper, teeny-tiny print (to cram more words on each page- not a good move for this middle-aged reader), and itsy-bitsy margins around the edges of each page.
Of these three changes, the one that bugged me the most was the loss of the margins. It felt overwhelming to read the articles. I soon cancelled my subscription.
Margins on a page are powerful. Likewise, thoughtful, intentional retreat planning- building in white space in the form of free time for reflection- can give a woman a desperately needed experience of resting her soul in God.
“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.” Psalm 62:1
Only God can give us the soul rest we need.
In my years of retreat speaking, I’ve observed that women sometimes go on retreat to find rest in Him, only to get back home feeling exhausted and overwhelmed from cram-packed activity built into the retreat schedule.
Has this ever happened to you?
I’ve never, ever seen this happen as a malicious intent on the part of retreat planners. Ever. But I’ve wondered if, in trying to keep participants occupied or entertained over a weekend, the provision of a bit of blank white space is sometimes simply forgotten.
On the shores of Lake Pickwick, I absolutely loved the options of art projects, contemplative coloring time, rocking chairs on the deck overlooking the lake, and games sprinkled throughout the weekend.
Yet, I came away reminded of the beautiful power of remembering to include the simple option of white space- margins of free time for rest and reflection- to help women truly unwind, rest, and “retreat” while at a retreat.
There were so, so many things the women of First Evan(gelical) of Memphis did with excellence under the leadership of their extraordinary leader, Crickett Keith, and the retreat committee. But I’ll never forget their powerful use of intentional white space margins in the schedule.
I’m a big fan of color, but I returned home refreshed and not exhausted (even after speaking/painting/traveling) because of the retreat white space that allowed us all to “find rest in God alone.” What a gift!
Well done, girls, well done.