Day 4: Wednesday. This is the part of the week when the exhaustion from all of the amazing stuff we’ve been doing starts to seep in a bit. Being at a Companions retreat is certainly a time of rest and relaxation, but it’s also an event where there is a lot happening each day, a lot to process, reflect on, think and pray about…so, I think I saw more people than normal drinking their morning coffee today.
Wednesday’s schedule is changed up a bit to allow for a longer worship service this evening. Our morning routine remained the same today as we gathered for morning prayer, breakfast and then our time with Luther. This morning session was one of those where the content and depth of Luther’s sharing was such that I really wasn’t able to capture all that I had hoped through my sketchnote. But the theme today was talking about suffering, and our passage for the day was Romans 5:3-5:
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
After losing twins halfway through our pregnancy almost 6 years ago and going through the process of being diagnosed with OCD, I have some thoughts on suffering. And I found myself today struggling with this concept of “boasting in our sufferings.” I haven’t fully processed or figured out what I think about that, or how I understand that, but I have seen in my life the ways in which suffering does produce endurance and character and hope, or at least the acknowledgement that God can work through such difficult circumstances. But still…this idea of “boasting” in sufferings? I certainly wouldn’t wish any of what I’ve experienced as suffering on anyone else, even though I’ve learned a lot about myself and God through all of it.
We discussed a variety of aspects of suffering, how it can be revelatory, redemptive and clearly that suffering is inevitable. Luther said that “Suffering is not the goal of life – but it is the vehicle into which we move into a more full life of hope” (I’m paraphrasing there).
During our time of Integration, we did quite a few activities, but there was one that stood out above and beyond the rest. Although it is slightly difficult to try to explain, I’ll give it a shot. We got into four different groups, and each group was made up of two circles of people. One circle was on the inside, and the other group was the circle on the outside. Those on the outside of the circle were asked to take a minute to think about what word of hope they needed to hear from God this day. Then, the outside circle whispered that word of hope to the people on the inside circle, and they moved around so that everyone in the other group had a chance to hear their word of hope. Then the groups switched, and those that had received a word of hope now had the chance to give a word of hope.
I hope you can picture a bit of what that looked like. It was incredibly moving to hear all of these statements of hope from fellow Companions, statements like:
- Grace and hope.
- You are enough.
- Live fully into God.
- Live into the expansiveness of God.
- I love you and you are mine.
- Hope is yours.
And yes – in case you are wondering, we did do acrostic poetry again. This time the words down the side were THE HOPE WE RESIST. This is the poem I came up with:
This is it.
Here we go.
Everyone get ready.
However you feel about the world,
open your hearts to hope.
Patience will be needed and
eternal vision is a requirement.
We must resist resistance
Resistance to hope constricts. Constrains.
Even though it is difficult, we must hope.
Some may call us naive.
It will not be an easy road.
Some may try to shake our hope.
Thank God we already know how the story ends.
Then it was off to lunch and Sabbath time. I was able to spend some more time down on the water…which was great. Because of our special service on Wednesday, our Lectio Groups were held in the afternoon, and we had an opportunity to meet with the group and reflect on our passage for the day. As I continued to struggle in being able to say that I would want to “boast” in my sufferings, I decided to think about what I might be able to boast in, and it’s hard to be here and not boast about God’s magnificent creation, so I spent some time sketching the landscape outside of our conference center.
After dinner we met for the Worship with Prayers for Healing & Eucharist service. This was a wonderful service filled with the beautiful music, singing and liturgy of our week, and then with a prolonged time set aside for prayers for healing. Teams of people were commissioned to pray for us, and there were different prayer stations that you could go to around the worship space. As was clarified before we had begun the service…often times we may pray for a cure of something in our lives, and while the cure may not come, what can come is the healing.
It was a very moving evening of prayer, music, chanting and then…a beautiful celebration of the end of the service by dancing. Yup. You heard it right. I danced. It probably wasn’t pretty, but that definitely wasn’t the point. The joy in the room was palpable and it was a wonderful way to end yet another full day.
I’m looking forward to seeing what tomorrow holds…and already knowing that I’m going to be missing the beauty and smells and weather here at Zephyr Point in Tahoe.