A Retreat's Lessons on Community

Sometimes a retreat's impact comes from the speaker. But sometimes God teaches us in other ways too. The past weekend's women's retreat had a series of insightful and impactful messages. But I wasn't expecting to learn so much just from the other women there..

Christian fellowship is one of God's blessings, a lesson that I relearned i big way this weekend. The Christian walk was never meant to be alone, but rather as a team. 

I think fellowship is important for a few reasons. First, for encouragement. God calls us to "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another" (Heb 10:24). This life can get tough. Mid semester blues - the combination of exams, sleeplessness and drama - are a real thing. It can be tough to cling to God's promises about ourselves and tougher still to be ambassadors in a place that seems so set against him. But it was so encouraging to worship with others, to share in the same faith, to worship the same God. To love and be loved in return. To have genuine, honest conversations. And to remind us that we are called to a higher purpose than just this life. Amid the often-times surface or self-seeking relationships we see on campus, it was so renewing to experience what God's fellowship can look like.

Second, for accountability. We can so often be entangled in the same patterns of sin that we become either numb to them or too ashamed to address them. But when we can lay our sin in front of God and in front of each other, it is there we can find healing. "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:7). When we expose the sins we struggle with, we admit our own weakness and our need for a Savior and purification. And to our surprise oftentimes, we find not judgment but support from our sisters in Christ. Maybe we find they are struggling with the same thing or have struggled with it. Choosing to tolerate sin no more, experiencing Christ's freedom from its power in our life can be encouraged by our fellowship. This weekend I experienced very sweet confession and reconciliation with a sister in Christ. We brought to light things that had damaged our relationship and caused us to grow distant. We talked about how we could both make things better. That healing was so freeing! Maybe we had confessed these things to God but we hadn't to each other, and I realize now just how necessary that is. 

Finally we learn from others. I heard from a lot of girls on the retreat that they connected with a girl who was struggling with just exactly what they'd been struggling with. God calls us to "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12:15) and I experienced that this weekend too. I was able to finally talk to a friend about what I'm going through and found she had been through the exact same thing. I think it was cathartic for both of us to address how we were feeling and process with someone who understands; God gives us unique experiences that we might use them to serve others. We weren't meant to struggle alone, but rather to also draw wisdom from fellowship, from what others have gone through. As much as we talked about God-pleasing relationships, I learned the most by sharing with and talking to other girls about what that looks like in current and past relationships.

And finally, we talked about how fellowship has to be intentional, now and after college. Life isn't lived in a retreat setting, but rather among the people we are called to serve. As Hebrews exhorts us, "Let us not give up meeting together." God gives us this fellowship, but we are called to pursue it - make time and space for loving one another in Christ. 

Scott Thomson