Monday, February 28, 2011
I knew before I left for the retreat than when I came back I would have a lot to say, but interestingly, I've discovered that I'm struggling to form words that do the experience justice. "How do I even describe with words what happened in this moment or that? Will it even make sense to those reading? How will I explain the sheer awesomeness of the situations encountered?" I've wondered. Well, it's unlikely that my inferior writing skills could ever do it justice so I'm off the hook. I can only write about it for what it was - indescribable.
For months now, I've had moments where I'm suddenly impacted by God's involvement in a situation or within a set of circumstances, but none of them compared to the impactions I've had since Friday. Far away from everything I know, I was keenly aware of God's presence in each of my day's moments, most of which were personally painful. The retreat wasn't what I expected. What did I expect? I don't know really...perhaps a weekend of pure joy and top of the lungs praise and worship? A weekend of miracles or blissful spiritual euphoria? During the weeks leading up to the departure date, I was so excited to be joining 50 other women who just love God for God. I couldn't wait to learn from them and share in their excitement for the Lord. "What a blessing it is that I'm getting to go," Sam and I often said over the last couple of weeks. Well, less than 24 hours before it was time to leave, some uncomfortable adjustments left me in contemplation over backing out. Certain moments of excitement had turned into dread, yet I knew from how things had played out over previous weeks that it was God's will for me to go -and I left.
Into the first night, I was in full combat with the devil. He did everything in his power to get me to leave and I wanted to. I almost attempted it, but as I sought answers from God in isolated moments of prayer I realized He wanted me to stay - even if it meant I suffered in doing so. "God, may Your will be done and not mine," I finally said as I remembered the Tortured for Christ book that came as a surprise in my mail the day before. (Though I'm in no way comparing myself to the martyr's in that book, I was most definitely suffering for God on my own level) Well, things got worse, but by then I knew what God was wanting from me so it gave me strength to go on. The day continued and events outside of my control made me wrestle with leaving yet again. In a fit of anger over some adverse circumstances I called Sam and told him to look up driving conditions and get back to me. We hung up the phone and I found a quiet place on a secluded lobby couch where I again sought God. His answer hadn't changed - He told me to stay. I knew I would see the weekend through until the end.
As the last day was upon me, it turned out that I was unable to leave. With a "no exceptions" chain restriction on all departing cars, I had to laugh as I thought of the chains I didn't have. How desperate I was to get home, but how determined God was to teach me a little bit more - and that He did. I'm incapable of describing the absolutely incredible moments I had with God and the things He did while up on that mountain. It's not with pride that I tell you - it's in awe that I share with you. He did more with me in that one weekend than I've ever let Him do throughout the three and a half years I've been walking with Him, and I'm humbled. How did He do more in just one weekend? Because for the first time I had nowhere to run and nowhere to go. I was strategically placed by Him on that mountain top with no way down until He said it was time. He knew I wouldn't be able to leave long before I ever even knew I was going.
We're free to go wherever we want when we're walking with God. He doesn't entrap us into a life with Him. We get to choose that, but how often do we walk away from Him when we don't like what He's doing or what He's asking? How often do we not ask for His guidance just because we know we won't like the answer? Have you ever been faced with a decision that has multiple options for an answer? One answer is what you know God wants you to do, but the other option is easier so you deliberately decide not to ask Him in an effort to convince yourself that you're ignorant of His will? "Well, if He didn't tell me what the right decision was, then I'm not to blame for making the wrong one," we convince ourselves. Sound familiar? Well, we're not "getting away" with anything by thinking that way. God already knows whether or not we know His will and He doesn't let us make a fool out of Him. He will, on the other hand, let us make fools of ourselves, so remember that the next time you avoid asking Him what He wants you to do.
Anyway, while I was there I caught a glimpse of how God was using me, and it was frequently painful. I get to do some really amazing things for God, but I've also seen that to do some of them it's not always fun or easy. To do them, our life has to be about Him and not ourselves. Have you ever done something nice for someone and then gotten mad when you didn't receive appropriate thanks, appreciation, or credit? If so, then you may as well ask God to give you a receipt as proof the next time you make a kind gesture. Just do nice things to do nice things and please God and don't worry about whether or not you get the credit. God will give you the credit in His time. It will often come in the form of a "sudden impact" where He shows you just how appreciated you are. Wait for that instead of the "thank you" you should have received from another flawed human being. Let yourself be overlooked by people while you take comfort in the knowledge that God overlooks nothing. Instead of complaining that no one acknowledges the great and kind things you do, brace yourself for the moment of sudden impact when God acknowledges what you've done.
So, as for the retreat - it was painful but at the same time one of the most amazing and awesome experiences I've ever had - mostly because of the countless moments of sudden impact that are still in-flowing. I saw some beautiful women with a deep love for Jesus and I was inspired by their devotion at a time when I actually thought my own was deep. I walked away humbled by how much I still have to learn and how far I have yet to go before I'm walking with God in the way I desire - in the way that He desires. At the same time I'm in awe at how much I've already grown. God's continuous flow of snowball tosses at my head awakened me to how far He's already brought me. I learned a lot about myself, others, and the love God has for us all. I trust Him on a level deeper than what I already did, and I was convinced it couldn't get much deeper. I was wrong. God did so much more than what I can even recount. He showed me an angel in the form of a man named Ron Parker who showed up out of nowhere and started shoveling snow from around my car. He also showed me the evil of Satan when I took a hard fall on the ice and a car full of strangers laughed and yelled that they were glad I fell - simply because they knew I was on a church retreat for God. He showed me that it's my job to love that group of people anyways. Afterall - He does. He showed me that He's proud of me, but also that He expects a lot from me - more than what I've given at times. He showed me that He loves me more than I'll ever be able to actually comprehend with my own finite mind. He showed me through many sudden impacts how much He is involved in my life and how my life needs to be about only Him. I have fallen more in love with Him and I cannot wait to fall deeper yet. I have been suddenly impacted by so many wonderful and amazing revelations from God and I can't wait for more to come.
Wait for your own moments of "sudden impact" because there's nothing else like them when they come from God!
*Image taken from my own personal library of photos. Copyright applies.
*For more photos from trip, look me up on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=570628908
*Tortured for Christ, written by Richard Wurmbrand. http://torturedforchrist.com/