Our lives are busy, full of good things, some unpleasant things and the things that just have to get done. We cram our days from early morning until late at night with work, sports, hobbies, tasks, errands, meals, and hopefully, sleep!
We long to live out of our purpose and the dreams God has laid on our hearts but there never seems to be enough time. The day-to-day busy takes over and we find ourselves year after year never any closer to where we want to be.
Have you ever had the thoughts, “How did I get here? Where am I going?” Somewhere along the way we get off-course and find ourselves overwhelmed and no longer where we thought we would be. We know something needs to change, but how?
Proverbs 29:18 in The Message version says, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” The King James Version puts it, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Without knowing where we are going, without a zoomed out perspective of our lives, we cannot get to where we are supposed to be. It’s like trying to find your way through a dense forest without a map. You can only see what is right in front of you. You respond to that rock in your path or the tree you need to walk around, but you can’t see the direction you should walk to get to your destination. In the forest without a map to guide you, everything looks the same day in and day out and you never make any progress. You may end up walking around in circles. We need a map and God is the map-maker of our lives.
When was the last time you stopped long enough to evaluate what is on your plate and ask the Lord where He would like to take you? Stopping and pausing seems impossible, let alone finding enough space to evaluate our lives, our dreams, and our goals.
One way to carve out this time is to start a new tradition called a “vision retreat”. Our friend, Karen Stott, author of the book An Intentional Life, writes in chapter 11 of her book about how a vision retreat can help us live our lives with intentionality and purpose:
I realized that it had been a very, very long time since my husband, Isaac, and I had sat down, reevaluated where things were in our businesses, our ministry and our home, and actually sought God about them.
I had been saying yes to so many things, I didn’t really know what made sense anymore, or why we were even making the decisions we were making. We didn’t have a vision for anything, so no wonder I was stumbling all over myself!
Knowing we desperately needed to talk and pray together, I asked Isaac if I could set up a weekend away for us to go and seek God for our lives and businesses. He was game, of course, so I booked a quiet cabin at a central Oregon resort, and a few weeks later we were on our way.
Even after a rocky beginning, this little weekend away felt truer in our souls than a hundred weekends before it. We wrote down all of our victories and failures from the previous year and our hopes and dreams for the year ahead. We talked about what worked and what didn’t, and the things we were scared to bring to the surface. It was beautiful, and complicated, and hard. There were some tears, and many laughs, and just a whole lot of breathing room.
We were able to talk about dreams we both felt the urge to pursue and to seek God together on what He had for our lives. But what struck me most was how this intentional time away helped us carve out new goals, and next steps, and direction for the days and years ahead.
Time set apart is most addictive when you know the power it holds. Life changing, to say the least. You can’t live in your mission or walk in your calling if you don’t know what it is, where you’re going, or the steps you need to take to get you there.”
Taking some time to pause and reflect doesn’t need to be complicated or overwhelming. There is no set formula to it. It just starts with intentionally setting time apart from the busy day-to-day to zoom out and see the big picture. It’s taking time to seek the Lord and make sure you are headed in the right direction–one that is life-giving.
Allowing God to craft a vision for yourself and your family and where He is taking you is one of the most valuable things you can do. Where you go on your retreat doesn’t matter as much as purposely setting time apart to seek God in the process. Spend time journaling, praying, talking to your spouse or a good friend, and reading the Word. Lean into God for clarity and direction so that you know where you are headed and what you need to do next to get there. God will reveal what you may need to let go of and what you should be investing in.
The key to this time is being open to God’s leading. If you hold too tightly to your own dreams and desires, you will not be open to hearing God’s voice and the purposes and plans He has for you. As Karen Stott says, “We must seek Him first. Lean into Him first. Listen to Him first. And from that, talk it out, let the dreams flow, process what your next steps should look like, and always, always write everything down!”
God will use these vision retreats mightily–not only in your work life, but in your marriage, your family, and in the overall rhythms of your life. These retreats can help clarify your plan and your core values to guide your decisions. You may even find yourself no longer drained by the responsibilities that you dread, or overwhelmed and weary because you said yes to the things you didn’t have margin for.
Having a vision gives you permission to intentionally carve out the things that were weighing you down and hand them over to others who enjoy them. When you let go of the things that may be good things, but not necessarily the best things, you have more time and energy to take on the roles and projects that make you come alive, the things you are created to do. You know when something falls in line with your gifting when they are things you look forward to doing. They energize you, allowing you to make a huge impact on those around you.
In taking time from our busy lives and intentionally using it to grow closer to God, something amazing happens. We walk away with a renewed vision for our lives. These opportunities not only clarify our purposes and give us a direction for spending our time, but a chance to be reminded of our identity in Christ (and sometimes to see the ways we have lost our way). You will experience so much freedom and joy from the opportunity to re-ground yourself in Christ and the plans and purposes He has for you.
Only through living life by God’s design and direction will you find the peace and joy you long for. If you have ever found yourself wondering how on earth you got where you are or are confused about what to do next, I would encourage you to block out a day or two and spend time with God. He has so much He wants to say to you. He longs to show you the amazing life He has planned for you–you just need to take the time to listen. Let us live each day with purpose and intentionality as we seek God’s vision for our lives!