Saturday, 2 September 2017

Retreating and Encountering God

Saturday was a really special day for me and a day of great encounter with God. I travelled from sunny North Wales to Coventry for a retreat day with other women who are walking down the road of childlessness and infertility.

The devil had really tried to stop me going, so I knew it was going to be a good, God-centred day, but I never expected it to be such a beautiful day where I would feel so loved from the second I stepped through the door.

It was a day with a Myriad of emotions. Each one made me feel more accepted and taught me something of the character of God. I share them today in the hope that they may bless someone who may be feeling grief, loss or loneliness or may be searching for a community who understands, they are out there and God will lead you to them

It was amazing how in a room full of strangers I could feel such a community with those women. We weren’t all just sisters in Christ, but we were all fighting similar battles, with similar struggles and all looking for people who will help us feel understood. It was amazing to be told you are not alone, and know it to be true!

You see God made us for relationship. He wants us to do life with each other. That is why the early church proved to be successful. As acts 2:44 says
“All the believers were together and had everything in common.”
‭we are called to journey together, to share our ups and downs and walk the road alongside each other, and with every step we take, God will be right there with us, smiling as we support each other.

A surprising emotion for me was one of relief. As I listened to the story of Lizzie, she articulated some of the battles she faced so beautifully and I felt the relief of knowing that someone else has felt that too. In society, and even church, those who are journeying through infertility are so often alienated and feel alone, but there was a great relief in shared experiences.

That morning, as I sat in the chapel clinging to my holding cross, I was able to let go of feelings of guilt and failure that I had carried for some time, and I felt the love of Jesus wash over me as the music playing beckoned me to:

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling
O come to the altar
The Father's arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

There was time in the day where grief was discussed and shared. This was a beautiful tie. To understand what grief was and to be told that the grief we felt was ok.
It’s OK to grieve for the life that might have been, the things that never were and the loss that we feel.

We tasted the bitterness of saltwater and remembered the grief we all felt.  I felt God’s comfort and as I looked to the cross I was reminded he is no stranger to grief and I felt the assurance that he grieves with us all.

The day was surprisingly full of joy. As we shared together with people who ‘get it’ we shared in joy as we made connection, swapped stories and found people who could truly say ‘I’ve been there too!’ We were reminded of Romans 12:15

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.”
After we had tasted the saltwater, we then tasted the sweetness of honey and thanked God for the joy and laughter that is also experienced along the way.

For me, another thing I experienced was an discomfort in my spirit as God spoke to me. As a minister in The Salvation Army, I have people in my church and in the wider denomination who are also experiencing the pain and grief of childlessness and infertility. I have been placed in a position where I can influence not only my church, but The Salvation Army as a whole. Over the past few months God has really been guiding me to consider what this may look like and has kept reminding me of that famous verse in Esther 4:14:

And who knows but that you have come to your position for such a time as this?”

As I ponder my beautiful day with such a gorgeous-inside-and-out women, my heart is full of gratitude, joy and excitement. Gratitude that I was able to share in such a special day, joy that I am not alone and excitement at what God is going to do in the days and months ahead.

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