The next four entries are for a self-directed retreat/interlude I’m creating for the midway point of Lay It Down, the Book. I’m trying to build it for both individuals and small groups; this is the individual version. Enjoy. (P.S. I’m also going to post the general notes and introduction in the comments, if y’r interested in actually doing this.)
In our next session, we’re going to focus specifically on listening to God and what He has to say to us right now. But it’s hard to listen when your mind, heart, and spirit, and so cluttered with everything but Jesus. This session, therefore, is about starting to clear the decks and begin preparing your heart so you can hear.
Be patient with yourself during this process, but be willing to deal honestly and thoroughly with the things that have come between you and Christ—even if you haven’t realized them just yet.
Read Luke 10:38-42. Then read it again. Once more. Write down your immediate impressions in your journal.
Then, think about and write down your answers to the following questions, spending at least five minutes on each bullet-point group of questions:
• If you’re a Martha: If you had (or have) a Mary in your life, what would your complaint(s) about her be? What do your complaints reveal about your own priorities? How do those priorities line up with Jesus’ priorities, especially in light of what you’ve studied these past several weeks?
• If you’re a Mary: How do you react to the Marthas in your life? How guilty or anxious do you feel about all the things that aren’t done—or at least about how it’s making the Marthas in your life feel? What legitimate points do your Marthas have? How does all this distract you from sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening?
• Why is it so hard to stop and listen to Jesus? What do you think you’re giving up by doing so?
Now, read Revelation 2:1-7. Again, read it a few times and write down your impressions before moving on.
Reflect on and write down your answers to the following questions, again spending at least five minutes on each bullet point:
• What do you think—or at least hope—Jesus will commend you for? Be honest—this is an opportunity to invite Jesus into your struggles, and the things you take even legitimate pride in are part of that struggle.
• Recall when you first came to know Jesus. (You hopefully did this in “Lay Down Your Relationships”—but we can never remember enough.) What’s different now? How have you forgotten, or at least neglected, your first love?
• What attitudes or activities have quenched your first love—complacency, opposition, inattention, busyness, something else? Name each of them now. Be specific; add some detail.
• How do you get back to where you once were “and do the things you did at first”? (Note: If your answer is “I don’t know,” don’t panic. You’re just starting this retreat. Just begin trying to process. Give Jesus time to respond to, and shape, the desires of your heart.)
Part of the answer to your last question can be found in your answers to the previous question, and in verse 5. We’ve considered how far we’ve fallen, and acknowledged our need “do the things [we] did at first.” There’s one word between those two phrases, though, that we’re going to deal with now: Repent.
Review your list of attitudes or activities that have quenched your first love. You’ve named them; now spend time in prayer lifting each of these things up to God and repenting of them. To repent means to turn around, and by turning around we begin heading in the direction Jesus first pointed us in—and toward the destinations, both on this earth and beyond, He’s intended for us.
When you’re done, spend some more time remembering your first love in Jesus. Remember the joy you experienced in “do[ing] the things you did at first.” Then close your first session in prayer and thanksgiving—both for what Jesus has already done in your life and what He’s going to do as you lay down your life to Him.