When Retreating Pushes Us Forward


I just returned from the Visible Music College Winter Retreat. A great concept, the retreat takes all the students and staff--140 or so total--out to a retreat center and they spend a few days together in a completely relaxed environment. Rather than over-programming the time, there is a definite focus on worship, on input from the guest speakers, and on hanging out and sharing free time fun together.

I've been to ten previous winter retreats with this group of people, and God is always faithful to move in big, lasting ways.

I almost didn't go to this one, my eleventh. In January 2012, I felt the Lord speak to me very clearly to leave my position at the college. This also means leaving behind a unique, creative, difficult, artistic, healing, and hurting community. Such an authentic place where God can move in staff and students is hard to find. It also meant leaving behind my best friends--people with whom I have struggled, loved, wept, freaked out, celebrated, and most of all, simply shared. How can I walk away from that, but then go to the winter retreat and let me heart continue to be knitted to this breathtaking group of people?

As the Lord sometimes does, He called me to leave all that is dear and familiar to me, but He didn't give me a clue where to go next. I'm still not really sure. And you know, I had to ask the hard questions of the Lord: I love this ministry and these people. I thought I'd always be here, so what's the deal? Why have you released me from something which I love with my whole heart? Why haven't you shown me, if not a roadmap, at least whether to go left or right at this stop sign? To be honest, I felt betrayed by God. If His love never fails, why am I in this situation?

I'd like to say that God rolled out the new plan at the retreat, but that didn't happen. What did happen was that I finally realized and was able to articulate that I felt God's love had failed me, that I didn't believe, fundamentally, that he is in the process of working all things together for my good. I didn't believe that he makes all things new, and I surely didn't want to follow wherever he was leading.

Sound disrespectful? I'm sure it is. But it's honest. And it's only after God helped me identify why I was so hurt that he was also able to say, "hey, my love, just wait and see. Just hang out. I got you."

I recently wrote on Facebook, "You know that scene in 'A Christmas Story' when the kid sticks his tongue on a light pole in the dead of winter and then can't get it off? And it stretches and hurts and he can't get it detached no matter how hard he tries? That's how my heart feels." At this retreat, identifying all these feelings, finding that my heart was stretched backward, not forward, and being absolutely loved and supported by the staff that I used to think of as "mine," I was finally able to say goodbye.

It's a difficult task to move forward. It takes forgiveness. It takes courage. It takes the ability to hold everything that's dear to you loosely. It takes humility. It takes a holy, righteous God, and it takes trusting that lovely giver of all perfect gifts that he has one wrapped up for you, somewhere, sometime.

Be strong, courageous, and firm; fear not nor be in terror before them, for it is the Lord your God Who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you. - Deuteronomy 31:6