I’ve been trying for days now to put words to our 2016 Fall Retreat.
Some of it, for selfish ambition. To be able to clearly paint a picture of what happened. Which I will never be able to do. Except maybe to just share my own heart in the whole thing. And the kindness of God.
God is always surprising me. Probably because I think I have Him figured out. Even though my intentions are pure, and I truly just want to get to know His heart, there are times where I want to believe I know where He’s going. You’d think I would learn by now the meaning of His ways being higher than mine.
This year, I felt so strongly that His promise for our retreat was coming from Exodus 33:18-22
“Then Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory.’
And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face for no one may see me and live.’ Then the Lord said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock, and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.”
The Lord was faithful in this promise to us. However, I anticipated it in the wrong way. You know how you gear up for retreats because you know it will be so emotional? You prepare to almost have your life turned upside down; for God to reveal to you how far you’ve fallen so that you may find your way back.
This retreat had a life of its own. Yes, there were still tears. Yes, there were still moments where kids realized that their lives were headed down a path that led them further from the heart of God. However, another leader pointed out to me that throughout this weekend, there was an overwhelming sense of His peace. I hadn’t put words to it yet, until she told me it was her favorite retreat so far. And I was honestly surprised. There were so many moments where I felt we just weren’t getting there. That sweet spot where God’s presence was meeting with us. And I was just so wrong. We were there. He was there. He just chose to show up in a different way.
Kids ages 12 and up were literally shouting the praises of God. In my mind, leading worship, I kept trying to shift the “worship” to something more reflective. Something quieter; something that would help them focus inward on their own hearts. And the atmosphere was literally just filled with praise. We couldn’t leave it. They couldn’t stop. We thought we had planned what our “anthems” would be. God decided them for us. And the kids followed.
They stayed in the moment, shouting over and over and over:
“Great are you Lord! It’s your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise.”
We literally couldn’t stop celebrating. Stories of anxiety, depression, feelings of complete worthlessness, were written down, and released. We were hidden in the cleft of the rock. And where I anticipated a heavy experience with His glory; He chose to let His glory be in the face of overwhelming peace, joy, and comfort. In every single detail. The perfect fall weather, the way that we were on time for just about everything (when does that happen!?), our conversations, and just the overall atmosphere.
It made me grateful for God’s unpredictability. He is always moving and changing. The next thing is not just the next thing; it’s the NEW thing. And an army is now beginning to rise up. With breath in our lungs, our bones aren’t dry anymore. Can’t wait to see where He is taking us next.