The majority of my close friends growing up having been atheists, and I had always felt alone in my walk as a Christian amongst friends with such opposite values. These friends celebrated the freedom to live for their own happiness by embracing the world, and I found myself being brainwashed into believing that I should be living for myself. Though this is often confused as self-love, I knew it is just another concept that Satan utilizes to distract us from the true purpose and joy that God has in store for us. I was surrounding myself with sin and a community that embraces/encourages sin, and I saw that my once unbreakable values had corroded down and taken form of the values of the people I was around. For the first time in years, I felt the urge to go to a retreat and find a community I could identify with, and it was the genuine care and love I felt from the congregation members that opened me up to the idea of going. I was left astounded by the fact that God was not only willing to sacrifice His son for me, but additionally was willing to go out of His way to empathize with me in my sin and continuously show me grace. When I take a moment to remember these truths, they leave me dumbfounded and in awe of the patience and grace He grants me with, and this in turn sets apart His all-encompassing, multifaceted love from the conditional love that the world can offer me.
Our guest speaker, Pastor James Han from Redeemer Presbyterian Church, spoke about Lot and his struggle with Sodom and Gommorah. I related to Lot in that I could not let go of the world and have faith in God’s promises, saw a lukewarmness in him that I saw in myself (he found justification for living within Sodom and Gommorah in the fact that he was going to be the salt/light of the city). The story of Sodom and Gommorah had always been so unsettling to me, being that it seems to most accurately depict the world we live in today. A sense of fear always came along with any mention of the story of the sin-infested city because it illustrated to me God’s ultimate judgement against sin. I was so consumed by the idea of God’s judgement that Satan was able to use that fear to distract me from the true message behind that story, which is one of His incessant grace for me. Lot repeatedly doubts God, but God understood the hold that sin had on Lot’s heart and continued to protect him.
There were so many things I was reminded of through this retreat, one being the importance and impact of my environment. I was so encouraged by the love and care I felt from the church members, and I could only attribute that to knowing that they saw me through His eyes as God’s child and poured out their love to me in such a demonstrative way. And after seeing the impact that people with God-centered values and goals have had on me after just one short weekend, it has made me so much more hopeful that I can be influenced by them to bring that genuine love to the people I am surrounded in in my own life.
My takeaway from the retreat was a powerful reminder of God’s empathy towards me, and that the least that I can do is to try to see the world and my own sin from His point of view. I pray that I will be able to feel the spiritual agony that sin brings to God, and that He will allow me to feel brokenness in areas where He sees brokenness and feel genuine love for His children in the same way He loves me. I am coming to learn to embrace the place that God has placed me in, and I so look forward to being molded and influenced by the people that have reminded me of the depth of God’s love for me.
Romans 8:15 (NIV)
15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again;rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[a] And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”