Last Thursday evening through Sunday evening, I had the opportunity to attend a Walk to Emmaus. This is a retreat for Christians...there's separate ones for guys and gals...where you go to get closer to God...and they don't tell you much more than that. You have a sponsor, someone who has been on the walk before, that turns your initial paperwork and then you start receiving letters in the mail saying things like "leave your watch and cell phone at home" and "bring extra shoes because the camp is extra muddy." You kind of have to wonder what you're getting into...but your pastor, whom you TRUST(hear that, Eric?), really encouraged you to go...so...you go.
Let me say that it is very worth the time if you get the chance to go! And if you knew all that happens, it would take away from some of the wonderful surprises in store.... :) Tee hee hee.
Anyway, at the end of the walk, they ask you two questions:
1. What did you learn?
2. What are you going to do about it?
And they put you up in front of a bunch of people right before you go home and want you to answer! I don't know about you, but it takes me awhile to sort through all the thoughts I have after being bombarded with GOD for three days straight. So I said that when it was my turn. Kind of unfulfilling for the listeners I'm sure, but I really didn't want to say something that wasn't in my heart. Far too easy to spout a pat answer without thinking about it, and it's rather personal stuff not easy to summarize in a minute or two.
1. What did I learn?
I learned that I still have a lot of pride to get rid of. Sometimes I judge and think I'm better than other Christians or more mature than other Christians or cooler than other Christians and that is sin and it needs to go. I am in need of Jesus as much today as I was when I was a little 6 year old kid asking Jesus to come into my heart. It was good for me to go to this thing with half a face that worked. I couldn't be Super Girl that way. I had to struggle to worship. I had to struggle to concentrate. I had a lot less self-confidence than I normally do. So I think I was more myself and less what I thought others wanted to see. I know it's cheesy, but one of the speakers said that "I" is in the middle of the word "sin". "I" is also in the middle of the word "pride". Hmmmm... So during a time of prayer when I do the "What do you want to show me today, God?" thing, the word PRIDE just kept surfacing in my mind. Here ya go, God. Take my ugly pride everyday. It's hard to give up, but I want to do it with your help. One of the ladies who gave a talk, an AMAZING woman with an AMAZING story, ended to a standing ovation by all of us. I expected her to bow her head humbly and say a quiet thank you as she left the stage...that's what I try to do when I get a compliment and try not to bring attention to myself. That's one of my best fake humility tricks. Nope. She lifted her head pointed her finger up to God and said "All glory to God!" with the biggest smile. THAT'S what I want to be like. I know God has blessed me with gifts from Him. Instead of wishing praise away so I won't have to deal with pride, I want to do a better job of openly directing glory where it's supposed to go. Okay, I might be rambling now, but that was a big lesson for me.
Another lesson was about fear. I heard many powerful testimonies this weekend. Some were among the women in my table group. Some were from speakers. But the most powerful one was a women outside my table that I only said a couple words to. She has cancer and has been through every treatment you can go through in the last 4 years. She's not much older than me. She's a teacher. She loved to run. She has a 10 year old son. She will die in the next month or two unless God heals her, and she is at peace with dying. She was extremely tired and was in pain the entire weekend. But she participated in everything, even if she had to lie down and just listen or take a golf cart to the next event. And I saw her laughing several times. Smiling. Wow. I have never gone through what I would classify a "tragedy." No unexpected deaths of those close to me. No big illnesses. No abuse, divorce, addictions that so many triumph over with Jesus. I have been blessed beyond measure with a wonderful Christian family, husband, friends, and churches throughout my life and I am so thankful. There have been some hard times, definitely, but sometimes I wonder how I would stand up to something "big" and tragic. I realized this weekend that I have a lot of fear about that. But through this woman, other testimonies over time, and seeing the sacrificial love of many, I saw that I could let go of that fear. God takes care of those he loves. It's one of those truths I knew but I didn't KNOW. I've seen it in my own life to a degree, and I've seen it in the lives of others to a much more powerful degree. It may sound a little morbid, but for the first time I told God, "I'm truly looking forward to heaven, and I think I can trust you even if the most horrible circumstances came into my life." Kind of a scary prayer, huh? But true.
My final lesson was about the power of love in the Body of Christ. I saw that on a whole new level this weekend. It's easy to get discouraged sometimes and believe the lie that you're all alone as a Christian. Or that your group of friends...or that your church are the only ones. Even though I have a FANTASTIC support system through family, friends, bloggy pals, my Sullivan women's group, my church...I still get in a funk and think I'm all alone some days. Not true. I was shown love by those closest to me and those who don't even know me this weekend. The love of God reaches a lot farther than I think. I was really encouraged by that. Heaven's gonna rock.
2. Now...what am I going to do about it?
Pride: I'm going to pray about that every day. I don't want to put on a show of humility and then be secretly smug when I receive praise about the stuff I did. I don't want to keep the praise for myself. Instead, I want to present it to God as a thank you. I'm also going to be asking God for help to quit rolling my eyes and being critical of Christians who don't do things the way I do, or those who are facing things that I think I've already dealt with. I say I'm a "team player" in the Body of Christ a lot, but many times my thoughts don't reflect that.
Fear: It's time to lose the "What ifs." There's not a whole lot of application other than that. But hopefully my time will be more focused on the TODAY that I'm given instead of worrying about the possible problems of the future.
Loving the Body of Christ: Sometimes I think I don't make the effort to tangibly show love to other Christians because I figure they already KNOW love and don't really need it. Good excuse to be lazy! So in the past I've focused my love on non-Christians. While that's a very very good thing, I realized that Christians are still in need of love, too. I certainly am. So I'm going to try to practice that in more tangible ways that are less comfortable for me. It is easiest for me to encourage others with words or with my time(prayers), but I'm much less likely to encourage with say...a hug, a hand squeeze....a tangible gift...a card... I probably need to read that 5 Love Languages book I've been avoiding for about 10 years. Who wants to send me a copy? I know it's at your house collecting dust somewhere...
I think that's about it. See? If I would have said all of this at the closing, they would have taken all their love back! And it only took me 4 days to put it together. I predicted 3 weeks, so I'm way ahead of schedule. I'll conclude with our theme verse for the walk, which pretty much says all that I just said in one simple sentence.
Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
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