Last night I had the distinct privilege of stepping outside my usual circle to attend our church's annual high school girls' winter retreat. Mind you, I elected not to retreat overnight. I am far too old and grouchy to sleep on the floor in a room full of giggling girls. I chose instead to spend the evening with them and then retreated myself right into the comfort of my own bed. The story of how I came to attend the retreat is fun: my cousin, who is a fun-filled, Spirit-led, unique-in-all-ways Bible teacher, called me up last week and said, "Hey! I am teaching at this girls' retreat at a church that I think is pretty close to you. Could I spend the night at your house?" Turns out that it was MY church! We have both been surprised, I think, to discover how many mutual acquaintances we have--it's a small world, after all.
The theme of the retreat was "Fancy Free." The thought of trying to communicate what freedom in Christ truly looks like to a room filled with 9th-12th grade girls is SO intimidating to me, but Christina and the other leaders made it look easy. It is good that I recognize that my God-given talents lie in the 4-year-old realm and not with 14-year-olds. I really enjoyed being able to sit back and participate in meaningful worship and absorb some sound Bible teaching. The theme Scripture is in Matthew 6: 25-34. Here it is from The Message translation:
"If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion--do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers--most of which are never even seen--don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."
So here's what I learned. Or more accurately, here's what I was gently reminded of:
1--I was created purposefully, lovingly, and carefully by THE God of the universe. He crafted me for his pleasure. He delights in me. He cares for me. Tiny sparrows and unseen wildflowers have everything they need. If the Creator cares enough about those little flowers to give them lovely colors and perfect designs, why in the world do I insult him by not believing that his design for me is perfect as well? I am so accustomed to my norm--my day to day, ordinary being, that I allow myself to become settled. I play a lot of different roles in this life: I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister. I am a friend, a teacher, a neighbor. These are all good and accurate descriptions of me. But none of these descriptions necessarily defines me. Yes, I am Mommy to the 3 little cowboys. What if I let that be the thing that defined my life? I would be left with pieces missing, because I was created to be more than just that. There is a universe of possibility out there, and my Jesus wants me to make the most of every chance I have to be the best me that I can be.
2--I can't be free if I don't trust Him. I mean, really really trust. Trust in the sense that I will go anywhere, do anything, give everything...all for Him. Trust in the sense that I am willing--no, EXCITED--to jump into the great unknown if He calls me to, because it never occurs to me that He won't be there to catch me. I can, and should, look for ways to demonstrate His love and glory in the middle of disaster and crisis simply because he is faithful and trustworthy. I am safe as long as I am with my Lord.
I love 4-year-olds. But it was a nice change of pace to go deeper and let my heart be penetrated by the sword of the Spirit. I will be seeking ways to live in God-reality. I don't have to worry. I can relax and be me. What a good God!