Our retreat began with us scrambling to make it to St. George’s parking lot, bags packed, coffee in hand, breakfast treats to share and spots claimed on our 14 passenger bus at 6:20 am - ready to depart for a 9 hour journey to Oxford, North Carolina, where Fellow’s programs from all over the country would be gathering for our regional fall retreat.
Getting on a bus at sunrise and getting off after sunset makes for a very long day. The night before, we had agreed there would be no talking for the first few hours in order for some of the “non-morning people” to sleep, but by some miraculous energy we left the parking lot laughing, chatting and enjoying being with each other, which surprisingly was sustained for most of a very long ride. The speedy pit stop with an option of Chick-fil-a or Chipotle definitely helped!
Upon arriving, the weekend included about 36 hours packed with fellowship among new and old friends, being challenged by the mandate of Micah 6:8, worshiping, playing and sharing meals together.
Although I don’t know if many of us had consciously identified it, I think below the surface I (along with many of my friends) came into this weekend wrestling with where we were at and if doing the fellows program– setting aside professional priorities, personal ambitions and freedom in order to embrace a different agenda - was worth it.
One piece of truth from the retreat that really blessed me was when this struggle of feeling frivolous and idle was acknowledged by one of the fellow’s directors. However, he didn’t just stop at acknowledging the struggle. He exposed tension that existed in parts of his story where hopes and desires to pursue some of his dreams were at the mercy of a God who is writing a much bigger story.
He shared pieces of his journey that were characterized by small and vulnerable beginnings.
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
As I was listening to this man share his heart, the mandate of Micah 6:8 started doing work on my own heart (emphasis on the “walk humbly with your God” part). It became evident how much pride and selfish ambition existed, oriented around building my own kingdom for my glory. This lie was introducing so much chaos into my heart and was really challenging my ability to be present and to enjoy all that God has for me in this season of being a Nashville Fellow. I have spent so much energy comparing my progress to others and daydreaming of what I could/should be doing to be more productive to build the life I think is best. I have let my unmet personal agenda inspire and justify my skepticism about if God is working and moving in this season of my life.
Upon leaving the retreat, the battle to trust is still great. It is really, really difficult to believe and rest in the Truth that we have a Father in heaven who actually desires to give us a life better than the best life we want for ourselves. However, I can only be grateful that I have a Father who, with perfect timing and persistence, continues to illuminate the lies I am tangled up in and reveals a more fulfilling path to walk down.
I return to Nashville humbled and refreshed by the truth and hope that apart from Christ my life is completely insignificant, but within Christ my small beginnings have immeasurably more eternal significance than I can begin to ask or imagine.