Sunday, February 03, 2008

College Women's Retreat

Our church's college women's ministry asked me to be among some of the older women of our church to come to their retreat for a meal and the message afterwards on Saturday. It was a blessing, a priviledge and a lot of fun! I went up with Kim, our assistant pastor's wife and enjoyed getting to know her as well. We stayed a little later than we planned, it was an amazing time. The retreat was held at a recently remodeled farmhouse out in the countryside, with a huge bunkroom and a huge basement that comfortably handled almost 50 women for their meetings.

I learned many things from being there. Vanessa's message about women's relationships with women was so good, I hope that there was a recording of it. She talked about how the Gospel changes relationships, particularly women's relationships in community with each other. I was in a small group with two sisters to discuss how to apply the message. I really enjoyed my time with them! I was in Becca's car on the way to eat out for dinner, we had a lot of lively conversations. I got a chance to meet and get to know a little about many women in between everything. I was just available and willing to communicate and encourage and listen.

One young woman and I talked about sharing our faith. We shared our struggles about the issue. Although it wasn't a very long conversation, it was encouraging and I came away with some astute observations coming from this young woman with a keen mind. Her struggle was during a spring break evangelism trip last year where she was among teams of students who approached other college students partying on a Florida beach. Her question was that why do we assume that if someone had a beer in their hand that that person needed to be saved? Sometimes, she found that they were actually approaching Christians, whom she felt her witnessing companions were judging by appearances. Sometimes, the people she met that she was intending to witness to were really solid believers.

I think she has a good point here.

We then talked about more biblical reasons for being open about what we believe. We talked about obedience as a good motivation, which seemed more appropriate than what often comes across as spiritual self righteousness or feeling sorry for people because they somehow seemed morally inferior. The obedience to God and trusting Him for the results was better because it was more focused on Him and not on our efforts or if there's a response. Basically, we step out in faith and let Him deal with it. I shared, though, what makes me nervous is fear of saying something the wrong way or being inaccurate. But just about always, the experiences I had were mostly positive.

I remember back once when I lived off campus and my roommates and I went to share cold-turkey in the dorms. Since there were three of us, I ended up on my own. I began by greeting women and being friendly and asking them, point blank, if they had any questions about Christianity or would like to talk about a personal relationship with Jesus or if they would like to see an illustration that helps us understand Christianity better. Since I was by myself, I think that it was less threatening. And being by myself, I had nothing to prove to anybody who was with me. And being by myself, I wasn't alone. Inwardly, I was throwing myself at God's feet for help. So, there were always good conversations, either short or long.

One woman I talked to in the hall was so intrigued, after awhile, she invited me into her room to talk more with her and her roommate. Then, she started to invite other girls on the floor to come listen and see the bridge illustration that I was sharing. I shared it three times. Her name was Grace. I asked her if she knew what her name meant. She didn't. I told her. I shared some bible verses with her name in it, she had no idea. When I think of her, I wonder if she thinks about me, who told her the meaning of her name. The thing was, I wanted to know if anyone was ready to pray to recieve Jesus, but I didn't ask because the one hour that I had was suddenly up.

I checked the time and saw that I was 15 minutes late to meet up with my roommates to ride home with them. It took awhile to get to the lobby and after waiting a few more minutes, I realized that the car was gone, and they had left without me. So, I called the house. Cindy drove back to campus to get me and she was furious. I was late almost every week we went to do dorm evangelism.

Well, I was late because I was always running into women who wanted to talk and hear the Gospel. How do I cut off a conversation that had deepened over the course of only an hour? Cindy and my other roommate seldomly found anyone, which probably added to their chagrin, knowing that I apparently did since I wasn't meeting them on time. I was usually too elated with my evening experiences to notice their irritation with me, so my obtuseness about the matter only made it worse.

Looking back, I see my immaturity a lot clearer, even though Cindy and I had reconciled that evening in the car ride home. For one, I could have taken someone else with me. I had a lot of someone else's who might have loved to go who met with me one to one and for bible study. For another, I could have left my phone number with the women I met or gotten theirs and make appointments to meet at the student union for lunch. An hour is never enough time to talk, and sometimes, it is better to cut it short and sort of keep them hanging. I've found that a spiritual appetite that is just barely whetted often is willing to come back, hungry for more. Jesus did it all the time in His ministry.

One the other hand, Cindy held in her resentment for almost a month until she exploded at me in the car. It blindsided me entirely and I didn't see it coming. There were almost a hundred solutions to our problem, and we didn't look at any of them because we were so caught up in our emotions. A few rational conversations aimed at real communication and honesty, it would have probably never come to that desparate and frustrating evening where obviously, Satan had the upper hand.

And on the other hand, it was always so convenient that I was always the one on her own. At first, it was a surprise. I thought the three of us would be together but Cindy decided we should split up when we got there. It was a lonely feeling. But when I found out after a couple of times, that things went a lot better on my own, I felt a little like Leah in the Bible, who triumphed over Rachel even though she had more advantages on her side.

Which brings me back to the college women's retreat and especially, back to Vanessa's message about how the Gospel transforms women's relationships with each other. I wish I had heard it when I lived with Cindy. She outlined several sins to repent of and encouraged us to trust the saving cross of Jesus.

Want to know what sins Vanessa talked about?

I'm sorry, I'm out of time. I'll tell you about it later.

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