This is the greatest benefit of retreat as it gives fresh ways of seeing; opens new possibilities, enabling ‘familiarity to no longer breed contempt’. Perspective gives the ability to see a situation objectively, stepping back to gain a bigger view like seeing a circus parade from an upstairs window rather than through a hole in the fence at ground level. It is to see things as others do; and especially as God sees it!
This is our principal aim in going on retreat – to stop, listen, reflect, pray, share so that we see with new eyes, think with new minds, so that even though we have to go back into the very same situations, the same set of circumstances, the same roles, responsibilities and relationships that we left behind to come to the place of retreat, we do so having changed inside.
Retreat helps us get everything back in place, not a distorted view that is overblown or grotesquely out of synch (think of fairground mirrors) but a true reflection of what is. Thomas Merton said, ‘Where you are is where you belong, this is it’ and an acknowledgement of this gives the only platform for real growth as it’s not the fantasy of the ‘if only’ nor the fiction of ‘what if’ but the fact of ‘this is me, this is where I’m at’, this is where I begin the rest of my life.
It is therefore strategic retreat, withdrawing in order to advance. The whole purpose of prayer, pilgrimage and perspective in retreat is to bring renewed hope for the everyday comings and goings of life as it is for us. This can happen because renewed perspective brings us to a place where true priorities are reordered, a sense of direction is renewed and a right kind of action is resolved.