This past weekend, I went to Reality's fall women's retreat. I knew it was going to be awesome, but I could not have anticipated that it would be SO full of blessings and revelations and answered prayers and basically LIFE. The theme Scripture passage for the weekend was Matthew 11:28-30:
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (NASB)
It was exactly what I needed, and so much more.
There were four main sessions, each covering a portion of the theme passage, and then we had the opportunity to choose two out of four workshops to attend, based on their subject and applicability to our current life situations. I went to one workshop called "The Danger of Quieting the Conscience" and another called "Hearing from God in Prayer."
I am just amazed at how EVERY moment of this weekend (I'm not even exaggerating when I say Every. Moment.) was so perfectly orchestrated and relevant for what I've been going through, and everything seemed to be interwoven in a way that was almost creepy (good creepy, if there is such a thing). Like, I bought a whole mess of books that looked good and/or were recommended to us by the ladies who organized the retreat, and when I "randomly" chose one to start reading during our free time on Saturday, the first chapter started out with "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." And the whole book is about learning to abide in Christ (basically be in His presence) and why so many Christians miss out on it (guilty!).
The sessions on the theme passage, the two workshops I attended, the conversations I had with the girls in my room...everything just lifted me up and encouraged me and brought so many things to light that I had been missing or needing or struggling with. (And you guys, I'm only telling you MY experience from this weekend; I could share so many other stories from the girls who were there who all had similarly amazing encounters with God, despite the fact that we're all dealing with completely different things in life.)
But the biggest ridiculously, unbelievably good thing that happened to me this weekend was that God finally showed me (or more like, I finally took the time to stop and listen to Him say) that I needed to accept His forgiveness. And to fully explain that, I guess I have to point you here and add a little more back-story. (If you didn't click on the link in that last sentence, you are probably going to be confused by the next part of this post.)
The whole thing with Kris was happening during the weeks that led up to our church's Easter service. I was a part of the large choir that would be singing during the service, so we had weekly rehearsals in Carpinteria. And almost every week before those rehearsals, I was meeting up with Kris for coffee beforehand. On Easter Sunday, I sang all the songs, heard the incredible message, and a few days later finally told Joe about everything.
One of the songs we sang at Easter was "Ten Thousand Reasons" -- it's an incredible worship song which had, prior to the whole Situation, become one of my favorites. But after that Easter service, all the way up until right before this weekend, every time I heard that song, I would burst into tears. These weren't tears of joy or intense worship; I was instantly filled with anguish and sorrow whenever I heard this song, and I didn't know why.
Fast forward to the retreat. On Saturday night, I sat in my seat during the second worship set after an incredible message, and I thought about the workshops I had attended that day. The conscience one was pretty easy to recognize as totally relevant to the Situation with Kris; it was about how the conscience is there to help guide us to make right choices, but it can be corrupted, quieted, ignored, etc., and ultimately we have to lean on the Holy Spirit to help correct our consciences by taking every thought captive. (It was WAY more detailed and amazing, obviously, but that's the gist.) I had realized this relevance during the workshop, but I wasn't thinking directly about it that night during worship.
The workshop on prayer was clearly also intended for me because the main point was that we need to train ourselves to spend time waiting quietly, listening for God to speak to us (rather than yapping nonstop and saying Amen and moving on with life). Prayer is not a one-way conversation (duh). So anyway, I was thinking about that workshop in particular as I sat there singing the worship song, and then I stopped singing and found a corner of the room to kneel in. I prayed, "God, I'm here and I'm listening. I don't know if you have something to show me right now, but I want to start giving you more chances to speak to me by shutting up once in awhile."
And then the song ended, and the next song started: "Ten Thousand Reasons." And in that moment, I felt overwhelmed with that same grief I had been experiencing for months upon hearing this song. But I also felt the Lord say, "You confessed to your husband, and you confessed to your girlfriends who keep you accountable, but you never confessed this to me. I want to give you complete forgiveness and freedom."
So I confessed it aloud (something I don't know if I have EVER done in the presence of God) and I felt this wave of relief. A heavy burden I hadn't even realized I was still carrying was lifted off my shoulders, and I received Jesus' easy yoke. And I stood up and sang that song with tears of joy and grateful worship pouring down my face.
That was the highlight of my weekend, for sure, but God didn't even stop there. I came home last night and told this story to Joe, and he was quiet for a minute before he said, "I played that song on repeat for DAYS after you told me everything about Kris. It was what helped me get through that whole Situation."
Seriously?! I don't think there is enough space on this blog (and I know that doesn't even make sense because it's basically limitless) to express all that God did in my heart this weekend. And then he topped it off by giving Joe and me yet another thing to share together in our healing process.
I know there is a ton more I wanted to write about, but I think this is a good place to stop. I kind of want to just cherish the special gift that this weekend was to me. Suffice it to say, though, that I am going to do everything I can to make sure I'm at the next retreat.
And I am probably going to have this song on repeat all day:
Thank you so much to the women who planned the retreat, and all the amazing speakers who blessed me with their totally ordained messages!