Attending my first-ever Christian Women’s Retreat last year was such a memorable experience, I started counting down the days until the next one as soon as I got home. Last weekend found me back on that beautiful campus with many of the same amazing people I’d met the year before. I was curious as to how the event would unfold, doubting it would have the same life-changing impact on me as the previous one. The healing that took place the night I shared my story was phenomenal. This year would be different, but I had no doubt it would still be wonderful.
As I grappled to discover a new “normal” and new identity in the throes of transitioning out of Mormonism, the truths I learned at that Retreat were transformative. I moved forward with the new understanding that “I am Beloved, Abba’s child, in whom Christ dwells and delights,” but the journey was still tumultuous. I continued to stumble and fall as I walked this new path with God.
Life was hard. I didn’t belong anywhere. I was suddenly a stranger among my Mormon friends. I didn’t feel like I “fit” in my Christian church. Family members had terminated relationships, or greatly reduced our interactions. Where does a divorced, empty-nester, former-Mormon-turned-Christian find “home” in this new world? I mentioned this feeling of being displaced to a couple of my new Christian friends and heard the remark, “Maybe it’s because this world isn’t your home.”
I knew what they meant. Heaven is our home, not this fallen and broken world. I understand the concept. But the frustration and uneasiness within my soul continued to churn. Where did I belong? What did God want my new walk with Him to look like?
Most of my life in Mormonism had been consumed with trying to earn God’s grace, love and approval. I tried in vain to earn my salvation by following the “checklist” of good works. Every day I was an absolute failure…and I knew it. Everyone else knew it too, and didn’t hesitate to point out my flaws. How could I enjoy this life when I was barely enduring it?
Then truth arrived on the scene. Crawling out of the darkness and into the light was a bit blinding for these new Christian eyes, so I was still grasping for truths as I shrugged off the untruths.
Imagine my delight (and surprise) when the theme for this year’s retreat was revealed: Sojourn – Shriveled or Satisfied. Wow! I count this as further evidence that God is in the details of my life. I ask for enlightenment, and He graciously provides.
“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:16)
Isn’t it interesting how something can float on the surface of our understanding for years, and we think we “get it”? And then, in a moment, it sinks into our soul and our knowledge expands. Such was my experience as buds of truth I’d known all along burst into blossoms of greater awareness. Here are a few of the precious truths I gathered at the Retreat that expanded my knowing:
- We need to face and embrace the REALITY that we were created for eternity, and dwell temporarily in this fallen world. Living away from home is hard, but hard doesn’t mean bad. Life is meant to be hard to woo us into a relationship with God.
- The REASON for us to be here is to know God and make Him known. We need to know Him in truth. Otherwise, we slander Him when we speak untruths. Who is God? He is our Deliverer, Guardian and Provider. He is for us, not against us! He is the Captain of the winning team!
- Our RESPONSE to this knowledge is to remain “steadfast under trial” and “count it all joy.” To “rejoice and be glad” as God’s glory is revealed and we become “perfect and complete” in the process, for hardships are the breeding grounds for an intimate relationship with God. I will RESET my head, heart, and habits to be in line with His will for me.
- God is good and provides us with RESOURCES that strengthen us as we traverse this world. He has graced us with His presence, His peace, His word, prayer, worship and fellowship with other believers, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. With these tools, we can travel with confidence and find joy in the journey.
The words we sang during Worship continue to run through my mind:
If You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move,
If You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through,
If You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You,
I will trust in You!
Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings.
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen.
Your ways are always higher.
Your plans are always good.
There’s not a place where I’ll go, where You’ve not already stood.
So now I ask myself, “Do I really want to feel ‘at home’ in this broken and sinful world, or do I recognize that I’m sojourning through a foreign land until I arrive at my heavenly home?” This deeper understanding that I am temporarily homeless while traveling through this world has eased my sense of not belonging because I finally get it. I don’t belong here! So now I’m choosing to enjoy this passage to eternity satisfied rather than endure it shriveled. And glory be to God for such a gift!
P.S. My assumption that it wouldn’t be a life-changing weekend was false! My apologies for such erroneous thinking, and many thanks to everyone who played a part in creating another fabulous God-filled event. Blessings to you all! And I’ll see you again next year.