Even going with the best of attitudes and the most purposeful expectation, there are certain things for me that rise closer to the surface than any other time at retreat, this trip was no exception. But I didn't go unprepared and I was in battle mode, ready to take up the fight required to bring captive my thoughts to the obedience to Christ.
The fellowship I had with the girlfriends in my cabin could not have been better. There were seven of us, six who came with the intention of spending time together and the seventh who was God bringing us perfectly to the number of "completion." Everyone got along and enjoyed each other so much. We had lots of laughs playing games and sharing meals together and it was an awesome time.
Saturday was a particularly battle filled day for me. I took some time to wander off alone in nature to seek the Lord but He was very quiet. While I was out I got a several splinters in my hand. I tried to pull them out, and was able to remove all but two. The two were deep. As I came back into "civilization" with my friends I was doing my best to pick them out.
I took note that when I didn't pick at the two splinters, they were uncomfortable, but they didn't hurt. It was only when I tried to pull them out, without the proper tools mind you, that it really hurt. The irony of the comparison to the thoughts and hurts I was battling wasn't lost on me. That's the thing about heading up to retreat, the "discomfort" of my issues develops into full fledged pain because of the picking that it brings.
I eventually went to my cabin and grabbed a safety pin, a "proper tool," to remove the splinter, quite literally, the thorn in my flesh. As I came back and sat at a table where my friends were playing cards, I began the work of removing my thorns. The first one came out relatively easily, but the second one had sunk deep and required some serious digging. I got it out, but it left it's mark. It hurt a little even after the splinter was out, but it was the kind of hurt that I knew would heal.
Unfortunately, thorns in the spirit aren't always as easy to pull out. And over the course of the weekend, one of my friends and I talked about the fact that sometimes, God chooses not to remove the spiritual thorns in our flesh. Instead He speaks straight to our hearts and says, "My grace is sufficient."
That was kind of how I felt this weekend about my spiritual splinters. I think the Lord did a little digging and actually removed one or two that I didn't even bring to Him. I wasn't unaware of them, but they weren't painful, so I was satisfied to leave them there. But now that He removed them, I am glad, I realize it's so much better.
But there is another deeper thorn that I feel like the Lord said, "My grace is sufficient." Interestingly enough, that brings a whole different kind of healing.
When I came home from retreat, my nightly devotional made this statement: "Focus on God's Presence in your present." (paraphrased) It was a profound statement for me. So much of my "splinter" issue comes from looking in the past and from focusing on the future, instead of being where I am and focusing on Him, remembering His grace is indeed sufficient.
What I have taken from this admonition from my devotional, and all the things the Lord has been speaking in the weeks that led up to it is this:
The Lord is in my now and He is with me and for me in it. He has left my past and has asked me to hand it over to Him as well, not to keep carrying it around. My future is in His plans, He will be there, but He's not there yet and I should never try to run ahead of Him. I need to be here in His presence now, abiding in Him and enjoying Him, and relying on Him, in confidence and trust.