So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:2 (MSG)
Why would I work on a spiritual retreat where I sleep too little, eat too much, and physically work so hard and long that it takes me a week to recover? This was a question I was asked as I prepared to serve on a team for the Oceanside Walk to Emmaus Women’s Retreat (Find out more about The Walk to Emmaus at http://www.oceansideemmaus.org/ ). It made me think why I did what I did – saying yes when I was asked and even paying for the privilege. Knowing that attending the training, the meetings, and the weekend would create havoc in my schedule and deplete my already aching, worn out body. I had no immediate answer except “I love it” leaving my friend to wonder if I was into abuse.
During the weekend, that question kept coming to mind. My answer was made visible through those attending the retreat, those that served beside me and the God incidences that took place throughout the weekend.
When those that attended first came, you could see the stress of life etched in the faces. Barnacles of living covered their face, body and soul. As the weekend progressed, I noticed that the barnacles were being chipped away, replaced with smiles and they were being infused with the spirit of God’s everlasting love. It was proof that God works though any and all obstacles to bring us to a place of grace.
The team that worked this retreat had met for over two months preparing and training for this weekend. We came together from all walks of life, different churches, different personalities to serve those attending and more importantly to answer God’s call. We were to work with each other, learn leadership qualities from each other and be an example of Jesus to all who were present. The grace shown by those serving was made manifest in the trials, and triumphs we were witness to throughout this weekend. And there were trials. But with every trial there was a triumph as well. Over and over, I saw women helping one another to get a job done when it was too taxing for the other. I saw differences of opinions faced with grace and love, where the need to control and judgment could have developed. As the weekend progressed, our bodies and minds were deprived of rest, yet God’s love prevailed. I was humbled by the burdens some of these women were carrying and yet here they were giving the gift of servanthood. I made new friends this weekend and I cherish the gift God gave me in placing me in their midst.
And in our midst was the Trinity. I found Jesus in the volunteer chef who made sure that those with special dietary needs received the food that would nourish and not harm. I found the Holy Spirit working through delays in schedule to allow for unknown events that helped heal a hurt, music played at just the right moment to sooth a nervous soul, and a maid from the venue who willingly helped move large overflowing trash barrels (not her job) in between making up the beds. I saw God reaching out beckoning us to spend time with Him. I saw His outstretched arms welcoming us all – servants and attendees, enveloping us in His grace and love.
Why do I work a retreat that leaves me physically tired, sleepless, and spent? My body will serve only on this earth. But my soul is eternal. It needs nourishment that only God, the Father can provide. It is nourishment for myself and shared with those around me as I journey to eternity. I serve because God has called me to and seeing His work here on earth has me resting in the knowledge that we are not alone. Where my soul once sported holes in it, my gift of servanthood has renewed my spirit and I have been made whole once more. The fruits of spirit are renewed and I am spiritually recharged with His word, and a personal message has been gleaned from answering this call.
My body may groan but it will heal. But it is my soul that rejoices in the presence of God made visible.
All is well.