An incident happened a long time ago that has puzzled me for many years.  My husband, my three young children and I rented a cabin with another family on a lake near the border of the U.S. and Canada.  The guys were excited about fishing so we all piled into a rented row boat, hauling fishing gear, worms, life jackets, you name it.  It’s a wonder the boat didn’t capsize!

The landscape around the lake was breathtaking. I’d taken an art class not long before so I brought my sketch pad along. If you’d been there, you would have thought I’d broken all 10 commandments… Everyone in the boat kept hounding me about why I wasn’t fishing. Finally, to keep the peace, I stuck my pole in the water and continued with my drawing. Once the pole was in the water, everyone was happy. 

It wasn’t until I read a book recently entitled, ”A Biblical Look at the Human Spirit,” that the puzzle pieces began to fit together.  In his book, Pastor Bill Jastram recalls an incident:

We raised our kids regularly having dinner together as a family. One night something was said that closed me down - I withdrew. When we withdraw, we suppress our spirit.  I’d created a relational vacuum by withdrawing my spirit.

I sat quietly eating ...

Soon I realized my family was looking at me. I hadn’t said a word, but they sensed the vacuum I’d left by withdrawing my spirit. (pg. 15-16). 

That’s what happened to me that day on the lake!  I had withdrawn my spirit and my family and friends had felt the vacuum.  (The reasons for my withdrawal aren’t relevant now.)

Jastram continues by asking, “Can you recall a recent incident where you withdrew your spirit?”

Oh, my!  How many times!  Lord, have mercy on me!  I didn’t know that was what I was doing when I did it! I just know that when it happens, I feel “dead” inside.

When our spirits depart, death occurs! 

“His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his plans perish.” Psalm 146:4

“For as the body without the spirit is dead…” James 2:26

See also Luke 8:51-55a and Luke 23:46.

Think what that says about relationships when one or the other person withdraws his or her spirit for any length of time? Sobering thought!  When a spouse says, "I don't love you anymore," has he or she withdrawn his or her spirit from the relationship?

What can we do to re-engage if we have withdrawn? Is it a matter of choosing to set aside our pride, acting out of love, forgiving and asking for forgiveness?

Jesus "withdrew to a quiet place" to pray. When a situation occurs where we are tempted to “withdraw our spirits,” we can physically remove ourselves, giving ourselves time to pray.  Other times, that may not be possible, but we can always pause, asking for the Holy Spirit’s help and wisdom in the moment.

In those days, I didn't have the language or the understanding to know the grievous consequences of withdrawing my spirit.  Today I know.

Lord, help us be so in love with You, so attuned to your heart and obedient to your will that we will never knowingly (or unknowingly) withdraw our spirits from those who need your love.

Special thanks to Bill Jastram, pastor of Tualatin Foursquare Church, who gave me permission to quote from his book.