I’m sitting on the back porch of a cabin at a retreat center twenty minutes outside of Blacksburg. The rain this morning has left a chill in the air, the ground wet, and a light mist hovering just above the treetops. The trees around me range from green to red to leafless, and the only sounds to be heard are the leaves rustling, the water still dripping from tree branches, and the birds. I sip coffee from a styrofoam cup and just sit, and soak it in. Everything is still, and peaceful. Right now, I could almost forget about all the projects and homework waiting for me back at Tech, the test I have coming up on Tuesday, the construction career fair on Thursday, life decisions to be made, even the anxiety of the uncertainty about my knee. Right now, it is enough to just sit in the arms of God, and let him take all the cares away.
I’m at [nlcf] Fall Retreat. It started yesterday evening, and will end this afternoon. It’s just 24 hours, to pull away from everything and refocus, reboot. Many, if not most, of us had a pretty grueling week, meaning this retreat was not a moment too soon. When the speaker got up in the opening session last night, he encouraged us at the very beginning to be looking for a single takeaway point that God is saying to us that, if nothing else sticks, we can take with us when we leave. By the time the speaker said all this, I’d already figured out what God was saying to me.
“Let go. I’ve got this.”
I feel like I’m dealing with a lot of anxiety right now. A lot of it is subtle, below the surface, and God has had to unpack a lot of it and show me. The obvious one is my knee. As I posted almost two weeks ago, I injured my knee three and a half weeks ago when I wiped out on my bike. After my first visit to the doctor it sounded like it wasn’t too serious, and it would heal within a few weeks. I just needed to take it easy, and keep it straight as much as possible—easier said than done, but I’ve managed. It seemed to be doing better, but a lot of that was ibuprofen. And it was beginning to concern me that it was still acting up. I went back on Thursday for him to look at it again, and he was surprised to see it still slightly swollen when compared to my other knee. He had me set up an appointment with their specialist, which won’t happen for another month, because he only comes in on Wednesdays and November 28 was the first day that he had an opening that I could fit into my schedule. He said that the outcome of that appointment could pretty much go one of two ways—physical therapy or surgery. There is no in-between. I walked out of the clinic with my hopes—that this was just a minor thing that would heal without any major problems—having taken a pretty good toll. My knee injury is not only a major inconvenience for the foreseeable future, but something that I am finding myself more and more nervous about in the long term.
I’m also wrestling with decisions about what I want to do with my life after graduation, just over a year and a half away now, and approaching faster than ever. While on the one hand, I still have a year and a half to figure this out, on the other, this could also have repercussions on what I do with my upcoming summer. With a career fair this week with a lot of contractors looking for interns, summer is not nearly as far away as it seems.
These are just two of the things that have been weighing on me, even more than I realized. Coupled with the week I described above, with presentations, projects, and more, when I finally got here last night, I was ready for this retreat.
In the first set of songs, we sang “Everlasting God.” I immediately thought of the passage of Scripture it comes from, one of my favorites.
Look up into the heavens.
Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
not a single one is missing.
O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.
It was a moment of relief sweeping over me, as God put things back in perspective, and reminded me that he’s got my back. Verse 31 especially hit home, given the fact that I can’t run right now.
After the songs, our pastor, Jim, got up to introduce the speaker. But first he read the famous “consider the sparrows” passage from Matthew 6, where Jesus told the crowds not to worry, because God already knew what they needed, and he was looking out for them.
It was a much-needed one-two punch. It was at this point that the speaker got up and said what I echoed above, about finding one takeaway point this weekend. And I was thinking, “Yeah, I think I’ve found it.”
It follows in the new theme that I’ve started to see God threading into my life—my utter dependence on God. That is, my growing awareness of my utter helplessness on my own and need to be completely depending on him.
They gave us several questions as ideas to be thinking about when they sent us out for our hour-fifteen-minutes of solitude with God. But I just found myself sitting on this deck, soaking in the scene around me, reflecting on all this, and starting to let go, if only for this short period of time I have to sit here.
Now, as I polish this up and hit “Publish,” I am back in civilization. Those 24 hours went by really fast, as these retreats are prone to do. Tomorrow will be a typical Sunday. I’ll sleep in, get up late, and eventually go to 130 Jackson to run sound for the evening service. Then Monday morning will hit again. But hopefully, I’ll remember to keep coming back to this thought in the midst of all that, especially when things start to get overwhelming again. I don’t think God is done talking to me about it yet.