Thoughts from Women’s Retreat

I struggle with being confident that I know God’s will for me. I don’t think this is a unique problem to have; I believe many of us struggle with the knowing part. I find that I get stuck in a holding pattern with God, not because I don’t trust Him, but because I don’t trust myself to know what He wants from me. To use the acronym that Andrew mentioned in a sermon recently, my ORT (obedience response time) can be embarrassingly long.

A friend and I attended a women’s retreat this weekend in New Hampshire. During the Saturday morning session, the attendees were asked to jot down some areas of life in which we felt inadequate. I wrote “knowing God’s will for me” as an area that I definitely felt a lack. The day continued and I didn’t think too much more of it. My friend and I went into the nearest town to do some shopping and took naps. Being located a remote area, the camp is an environment with forced ‘unplugging’ from all of life’s distractions; there is no internet, cell, and TV service for anyone except those fortunate enough to be able to stand atop a certain rock at a moment when the skies are a particular quality to allow the faintest connection to the outside world via cell phone. I was one of the people who neither knew the rock, nor chose to attempt to find it. Hence, I was left to read my Oswald Chambers, the Bible, Surprised by Suffering by R.C. Sproul, journal, pray or nap in my down time. Things could be worse! I recall taking time that afternoon to reflect on my desire to know God’s will for me, and I simply prayed that He would help me be assured of it.

At the opening of the evening session, one representative of each church present was asked to stand and tell the group from which church they came. It was at that time that I saw her for the first time; a woman standing on the outside edge of the row of chairs on the opposite side of the room from me, looking very small and very alone. She announced that she was from a familiar church, one at which two dear friends serve in leadership. I told my friend that we should go over at break and say hello to her since she was all by herself and since I am friends with her pastor and his wife. As soon as we had an opportunity, we went to her. She and I connected immediately, and not on a surface level, but on a soul-piercing, heart wrenchingly similar life story level that was remarkable. And we knew this within about 2 minutes because it just poured out of both of us in a way that caused us to look at each other with such deep identification and love and unity that our eyes were as big as saucers as tears streamed down our faces. We talked until the room had emptied out of the 80 or so other women there and we were nearly alone.

That night, I was falling asleep thanking God for His love for my new friend, and praying that He would be a palpable presence for her in her confusion and distress. The next morning, while walking to breakfast, my path intersected with another woman who knows and loves my new friend. She said that she had been praying that God would connect our lone friend with someone at the retreat, and she thanked me for being sensitive to God’s leading in that. I was dumbstruck. It resounded in my heart and soul that I had known and obeyed my Savior’s will by seeing a need and responding. It was the “gap” that Pastor Choco and my own husband have been reminding me to “step into” in obedience to God. And I saw the way that my reduced ORT had served my Lord by allowing me to truly be the feet that bring good news to the brokenhearted and the downtrodden. I repeatedly marveled at God’s answer to my own prayer by showing me that I know His will, and that I can walk boldly knowing that when I seek to do His will, it is a path that is ever before me.

Those events acted as a springboard of obedience to His leading. The next day, during a prayer service, I was playing with my bracelet. It is made of Haitian clay formed into beautiful burnt red beads. As I rolled the beads in my fingers, I knew I needed to give it away to my new friend as a reminder of the God who sees her anguish and sits with her in her pain. I quietly went to her and knelt beside her chair, the same one she sat in when I met her the previous day. I placed the bracelet in her palm and asked if she knew of the Jewish practice of memorializing God’s faithfulness with stacking stones atop others. She nodded that she did. I said that these little stones stacked together in a circle would be a reminder that God sees her, and knows every care. I hope those stone to be a constant reminder to her of God’s faithfulness and that they benefit her in daily life, but what they represent to me is something just as profound. I am able to know that God’s will is not unknown to me, and that when I respond to a situation in love and compassion, because Christ is in me and the Holy Spirit teaches me all wisdom and understanding of God’s will, I can know that I know my God’s perfect and pleasing will. What a blessing to have my God and Savior be so marvelously attentive to my own insecurities that He uses me to His glory in order to encourage me. It is humbling and exalting simultaneously, in a way that only God can orchestrate.

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