Breaking Retreat: Refusing to Evaluate

So my stuff is loaded and I’m spending a few moments writing this, and then a last little while in the basilica praying. The basilica is an amazing room, and I love being there – so I usually break retreat by spending some quiet time in that space. Then I head home (or in this case – to meetings).

Breaking retreat is always a little bitter sweet: I get to go see my family tonight, but I know that the soul work I’ve done here is incomplete… nothing I can do about that.

The final step in breaking retreat is to refuse to evaluate.

People will ask me, “How was your study leave,” and I’ll try to describe it honestly. But I try not to evaluate the time. The reason I can’t evaluate is that I won’t know for at least a couple of years how this retreat went. Soul work is measured in decades, not in days and hours. There’s nothing I could say in evaluation of these four days at the abbey that would come close to a fair assessment. It’s just too early. I have to leave satisfied that I was faithful in coming, faithful in retreating, and now faithfulness in leaving means I can’t evaluate.

I leave today with a sense of gratitude that I get to be a pastor and serve my little church of ragamuffins. I pray that I will do right by them, because I love them all so much. I’m so grateful that they want their pastor to go away and pray, and work on the condition of his soul. I pray that I will not let them down; that I will always have the discipline and courage to creep to the edge of the abyss on my belly, stare deeply into the face of God; and the imagination to come home and tell my friends what I have seen.

About Tim Suttle

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Tim Suttle is the senior pastor of He is the author of several books including his most recent - Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), & An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals.

Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. The band's most recent album is "Straight Back to Kansas." He helped to plant three thriving churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.