My plan all along was to use this column to tell you about the grace-filled experience I had on my Cornerstone women’s retreat. But to focus on all the sweetness and light without giving you the back story would be a little dishonest, so I want to rewind to the week leading up to the retreat, a time when I was in a dark and foreboding place, a place that felt like a pit of gloom that I simply could not escape.
Only two days before the retreat I wished I could get out of it because, as I told Dennis, I was not in the right place to stand before 50 women and witness to them about my faith and my life in Jesus. Dennis, of course, reminded me that the retreat was just what I needed to get back to that “right place,” but I felt like a hypocrite knowing that I would be leading others on a spiritual path that I was, at that moment, being dragged down kicking and screaming.
I’ve been in dark places before, but this one was different. It felt like it could swallow me whole. I don’t know if was the overwhelming amount of work deadlines staring me in the face, the onset of menopausal mood swings staking their claim (unfortunately not a joke), or Satan himself trying to keep me from bringing other people to Jesus (also unfortunately not a joke). But through the grace of God, I pulled it together only hours before the retreat and hoped for the best.
And the best is what I got. Surrounded by so many other women of faith, I immediately felt myself lightening. The other women on the core team with me seemed to pour life back into me minute by minute. By the time we opened the retreat on Friday night I was excited and joyful but still leery of how my talk — “A New Life of Grace” – would go first thing Saturday morning.
As I got up to the microphone to speak, I felt a sense of calm, knowing that I had put this in the Spirit’s hands and I was just the instrument. I finished my talk unsure of how it had gone. People didn’t seem to be crying as they had during talks the night before. Was the tear barometer an indication that my message had missed the mark?
I stood in the hall as they played the song I had chosen for reflection. I returned when it was time to do the activity I had planned. I asked every woman to write herself a letter from Jesus, to see herself through God’s eyes. I sat down and did the activity with them. I joked later that had I written that letter even two days earlier, it might not have been such a happy experience. Even then, bathed in the glow of God’s love, my letter from Jesus began like this: “What am I going to do with you?” Because when I imagine Jesus looking down on me, I imagine him shaking his head, a slight grin on his face, as he wonders with exasperation when I’m finally going to “get it,” to recognize that his love is unconditional.
When the letter writing was over, many women took the microphone to say that this was a difficult but powerful activity, that it allowed them to let go of the guilt they have over not being perfect, that it made them see themselves for the first time as good enough just as they are.
Today I invite you, challenge you, to take out a piece of paper and write yourself a letter from Jesus. See yourself as God sees you, His wonderful and amazing creation. And then, if you ever find yourself being swallowed up by darkness, take out your letter and walk back into the light of God’s love, for you are His beloved child.
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