Driving to the ChristLife retreat I felt a mixture of nervousness and excitement. The parts of me that were nervous were operating under an old system based on fears from past retreats. The parts of me that were excited were the voices of truth longing for and believing I could have new and better retreat experiences. Even though I was nervous I really wanted to attend the retreat. I am so grateful I did because the weekend became a huge blessing.
The whole weekend was an easeful experience and for that I’m very thankful. I loved the format. Each day there was praise and worship, a talk, reflection time, and small group sharing; the rest was free time. Having that flexibility really allowed me to process and enjoy each moment as well as have carefree time to spend with others. Building community in a natural way was part of the gift God gave me.
I would have been very happy going and coming from the weekend with just that – an easeful experience. I was joyful because I felt that my heat was full and really that was all I wanted. I learned something about God though: He’s a generous giver. Since through His guidance I was led to the retreat and by His grace was open to receive, I waked away with way more than I bargained for. I received an abundance of gifts.
Here are a few:
- I learned that in a moment hurt can be caused and in a moment healing can happen. That’s what it means to believe in a God who is ALIVE.
- Leading up to the retreat God had already begun working a process within me of releasing hurtful experiences and claiming the truth. Having a solid, positive retreat experience increased my faith that God knows the desire in my heart to be a part of a healthy, functioning faith group. Now I see Him 100% guiding me to define and experience what that looks like.
- I learned a lot about community. In seeing what it is I also learned what it’s not. First, the “non-examples”: Community is not a place where I have to hide my faults and weaknesses and pretend I have it all together. It’s is not a place where I have to put on pretenses or “play the part” of a Christian. I’m not in community because I’m trying to do, think, or be a part of something perfect. (*sigh*… huge relief!) The truth is, neither a “perfect” community, church group, nor church exists.
So if all those aren’t community, and if those reasons aren’t why I’m there…what is real community then and why am I a part of it?
Real community is a blessing! It is a place where I can be real and honest and let my defenses down.
As God rolls up His sleeves and cleans out the sludge at the bottom of my heart, it’s a true gift to have people who don’t mind being by my side. In fact, the truth is that I can’t go through this transformation on my own. I need love and support from a faith community, in addition to the constant flow of grace from God.
Being a part of a healthy community means being open to receiving this connection that I’m longing for. I’m a part of this community because God has called me here. He placed this desire on my heart and invited me. As a Father who “gives good and perfect gifts” (James 1:17) to his children, this community is a blessing that I know I’m meant to receive. Thank you God for this gift.
- It’s okay to be human. : ) God actually works through our humanity as grace builds on nature. He doesn’t think it’s so bad….! ;-) He created us human and sent His son to become man. This allows me to breathe a sigh of relief as I gently and lovingly accept myself the way I am. I can do this now because I understand the truth that God accepts and loves me exactly as I am.
- I’m now feeling the desires of my heart and giving them to God. I am doing this as I receive His love and the gifts He’s giving me to fulfill them. Stepping out with a bold faith and asking God for His grace makes me think of Jesus encountering the Samaritan woman at the well in the Gospel of John (4: 4-26). He says to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is was asking you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living waters.” As I reflect on his words I realize that He is actually TELLING us to be BOLD. With a truth like that all those thoughts of unworthiness melt away and I stand here in total humility. I can’t help but think what a gift it is to have a God who is ALIVE. I can’t help but think what a gift it is to have a God who is inviting me to receive from Him this gift of a LIVING faith. I can’t help but see and receive the ABUNDANCE of graces he is pouring on me. Lord, may I always receive the gifts you are offering me.
Looking back on the retreat I am filled with gratitude for every moment. It was all a miracle. It was all a gift from God. As I stand here today in gratitude I feel like it’s only fitting to offer a prayer.
Lord, thank you for all the graces and gifts you are offering me. As you do some cleaning in my heart and increase your love and graces, may I stand in awe with my mind and heart wide open to receive your love. Amen.