I spent this past weekend with about 100 others from our church who joined about 400 others at the VA District Winter Retreat. It was a great experience for all who came along. Not only did our teens have a blast skiing, snowboarding, waterparking, and tons of other cool stuff, but we also had a great spiritual experience together as well. It was such a blessing to hear from students about what God was speaking to them. I was encouraged to see many of our students engaged in worship of the King with a new level of abandon and awe. But as any retreat attendee will tell you, life at retreat and life at home are often 2 diametrically opposed realities. Or at least they USED to be.
In the early days of ministry, the challenge we used to face as we return from retreat is to somehow “harness” the experience; to somehow take the experience from there to here. But the longer I’ve been in ministry, the more I’ve committed to some “post-retreat” thoughts. Here are a few of them:
1. God meets us at our place of expectation, whether they be high or low.
2. Retreats, by definition, are not meant to last. Neither are the feelings they invoke.
3. To live life like you’re on retreat is to miss the point of the retreat.
4. Retreats are used for the ultimate outcome of a strong advance (this is the same principle used in battle situations). If there is no advance, then the retreat is actually a loss of ground.
5. You must keep retreat memories from becoming the standard by which we measure God. God would much rather us be “imagine if” and “what’s next” kind of people; not “remember when” kind of people.
Needless to say, we had a fantastic time at retreat, and we’re poised to take faith steps into what God is leading us into for our student ministry. Those who come along will be blessed. Those who don’t will be spectators to a blessing rather than participants.
After any retreat, you’re just plain wiped out physically. I slept like a log last night. That is, until 5:30 a.m. I was awakened by the sound of dripping water. Not from the showerhead. Not from the bathroom sink. Not from the raingutters outside. It was coming from the skylight directly above my bed. The rain was dripping right next to my head onto my pillow. You can bet I was definitely awake instantly! I hopped up with an imagination that had already decided that my roof was about to cave in. I ran to the closet to grab a towel to lay down on my pillow, because after all, if my roof is going to cave in, I certainly didn’t want any debris on my pillow. Ridiculous.
So, I laid the towel, still partially folded, onto the right half of my pillow where the drip was happening. Then I sat there and stared at it, because what’s more effective at stopping a drip than a stare? Ridiculous.
Then I did something that to some might seem a little less (or a little more) ridiculous. I decided that I would pray. I’d go to God about this situation. My wife and I had already scheduled a guy to come next week to repair an exterior spot under our bedroom’s bay window where a small bit of wood rot had softened the siding. My imagination kicked back in and decided that not only would he also take a look at the skylight, but that he would discover that the entire roof would have to replaced. While I do have some money in the bank, if you think I have enough saved to buy a new roof….well….ridiculous.
So I prayed.
“God, You’re my Lord. You’re the One who is trustworthy. You’ve been rock-solid faithful to me when my faithfulness to You is often flimsy at best. You have been so good to me, God. I have never wanted for anything. You’ve never not met my needs. You’re just so good. God, my roof is leaking. I know that there are TONS of other more important things in the world than this right now. I know that if we made a list in order of importance, this need would probably rank near dead last. But God, You don’t operate that way. You’re not the God who says ‘Get in line and I’ll help you when I get a chance.’ God, your help, like your grace, is immediate. You care about the things that concern me because I care about the things that concern You. So God, I’d like to humbly ask that you give me wisdom in how to handle this leak situation. Would You please direct me as I take some faith steps with You? I don’t know what to do, but You do.”
Then I heard God speak to my heart.
He asked, “Jerry, do you trust Me?”
I answered, “Yes God. I trust You.”
He said, “Jerry, get back in bed.”
So, I did. I got back in bed and instead of fretting about what to do with my roof, I enjoyed 2 hours of the most peaceful sleep I’ve had, under the protective canopy of the hand of God.