Thrive retreat, for me, was meant to be an escape from reality, but I ended up being forced to face the reality of my identity within the church and within Christ. Over the years of my life as a Christian, I have heard several sermons on community, but what made Pastor Michael’s sermon on this subject so distinct was how he touched on the realness of what community looks like in the church and how it is experienced individually. His approach to the subject of community was simultaneously convicting and encouraging. He teaches that community begins at the center of our solitude with Christ – this opened my eyes to the fact that I have identified my sense of community solely based on how the church community made me feel accepted, included, and needed; and when these things were not met, I felt hurt, lonely, and isolated. Through this, resentment grew and my love for community slowly diminished. I blamed the community for not being the community I needed it to be and figured I needed to move on.
Pastor Michael touched on the fact that pain in the church is real – it can truly hurt someone to the point where they leave. Often times, however, the pain experienced in the church is part of the growing pains of a church community and that reconciliation can happen, but “true reconciliation can happen when the offended person is ready to forgive.” – Wow, this statement was incredibly convicting for me because there are some people in my life that I have not reconciled with and I realized it is because I am not ready to forgive. I always thought I was the most forgiving person, always being the one to reach out to reconcile with others, but when I reflected on the purpose of why I was so “forgiving” – it was because I neededa sense of belonging and community. I relied and depended so much on the company of others and needed to be affirmed through their acceptance of me, that I am loved and wanted. What I really needed was to rely and depend on God’s love for me and through His love, then can I truly forgive and love others the way He has forgiven and loved me. I am far from reaching this point in my spiritual walk, but Pastor Michael’s message has also taught me to learn how to share my burdens with my community and I hope to be someone my community can rely on for support for when they need help carrying their burdens.