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Retreating, part 2

The most beautiful expression of what the weekend was about really came to life on Sunday afternoon. After the last session of the official schedule was over, we were free to spend the afternoon after checkout enjoying the Resort amenities. We scrambled to pack up the room, ending up with far more food than we came with and no where for it to go other than our stomachs. Bound eventually for the pool, several families banded together for a renegade and impromptu picnic, sharing resources, hands and laughter in a grassy little patch just off the parking lot of the swim and fitness facilities. It’s true the happiest and most gracious people are those who have been forgiven much, those who fully understand theirs and other’s shortfalls and depravity, and have a deep desire to know and be known. These are the people we have become the closest with, who are in our life so regularly both in proximity and in friendship. What could be more fitting than sharing meals together?

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[And beer. There was definitely beer, though this was the last remaining residue out of the final growler. Beer none the less.]

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Too often we retract into ourselves, protecting ourselves from other people. There is a naturally inclined reaction to keep other’s at an arms length, to keep them from seeing who we really are. Shame because we feel who we really are is either insufficient, broken, dirty, or there’s something deeply wrong with ourselves. Our deepest desire is not for other people to know us deeply; our deepest desire is to keep people from knowing the less desirable aspects of ourselves, to think of us as we really are, so we try to keep those hidden. The answer is not that there is nothing wrong with us, because there is. There’s something very wrong, otherwise why would we try so hard to cover it and why do we feel such struggle and angst when we can’t retain that control? In fact, we should be in hiding.

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What makes this group of people different than other friendships, other relationships? The simple answer is one thing, the one most important thing of all: Our lives are each centered around the sufficiency of Jesus, so that when in fact we should be hiding from God, we now are able to hide in God. That we each know true freedom and liberation from ourselves both requires and allows our own front of protection we put up to be torn down, that we have each tasted unearned, unmerited grace and forgiveness which goes far beyond just feeling bad for ourselves or changing because of consequences. That it is beyond commiserating in self-pity, but loving one another amidst the struggles and fears of being totally exposed, but also being totally accepted despite ourselves and knowing intimately relationships that aren’t based on performance or working harder. Granted, it still isn’t easy, it doesn’t come naturally. But I believe we are all wholeheartedly committed so we will continue to fight for the joy that comes from deep, real and raw relationships.

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I put so much effort into covering myself, in attempts to remain hidden, that it is hard to realize that is the very thing that is preventing me to grow into deeper relationships. I buy into the lie far too often that I will be misunderstood, that I will be hurt, that others don’t or can’t understand my struggle because they haven’t suffered like I have. My attempts at my own effort to keep parts of me hidden is an act of defensiveness, an act of rejecting the covering that God’s offered and saying my futile attempt is better. Because my covering and hiding always fails, which drives in more shame and pushes me further from any sense of joy or freedom. Because I continue to enslave myself to the very things I am trying to hide, I am burdened to remain carrying them, to remain stuck in the patterns and behaviors and hurt they inflict. What makes it possible to, despite my propensity to run and hide, despite my burdens and struggles, despite the inevitable hurt and missteps which happen in relationships, still pursuit deep friendships and in turn be pursued, without judgement and without fear of failure? Because each of us comes to the place where our God and Savior’s arms are nailed, open wide and exposed, on our behalf removing stains and guilt, and we each are seeing there in the place of shame and death, the infinite value and burning center of the glory of God killing everything that is dead and wretched in us through buying us with his own life so grace, forgiveness and perfect righteousness can be imputed in very ill-deserving people as the ultimate gift of grace. Therefore, we as people who cling to this get to live each day down in the trenches of real life, in the good of this cross-exalting, cross-saturated, cross-centered wonder and able to love with the redemptive compassion given to us. Impossible to do or even understand without supernatural regenerative knowing the cross displays an amazing compassion and calls for commitment. 

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“We stand as sinners together at the cross needing to be cleansed. When true love shines, we find it easy to share with and trust one another as we repent together and find grace in the sinner’s place. We grow to understand and feel safe with one another. There is nothing so sweet on earth as this simple fellowship of Christians who repent. Jesus stands among us shedding His holy light until it seems that nothing evil or unreal can linger there. It becomes easy to repent but hard to hurt one another. Our hearts are melted together and we lay down our lives for the brethren.”  
- Stanley Voke, Personal Revival (Waynesboro, Ga.: OM Literature, nd), 77.

 

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The best part? Our kids get to witness first hand what this practically looks like as it plays out in the meaningful interactions of their parents.

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