A reflection on the “God Loves You. . . No, Really” retreat
“’You are the Beloved’ – My only desire is to make these words reverberate in every corner of your being.”
— Henri Nouwen, The Life of the Beloved
The symptoms sounded all too familiar: anxiety, addiction, striving, busyness, distraction, despair, craving approval.
At the “God Loves You. . . No, Really!” retreat, Bill Haley listed these as symptoms of shying away from abiding deeply in God’s vast and intimate love for us. This rang true to me. I tend to emphasize knowledge and external ministry activities; I’m new to the disciplines of solitude and silence that can root me more deeply in God’s love.
During our time in solitude and silence at the retreat I felt a gentle but risky invitation to consider how living and serving from a shallow experiential knowledge of God’s love has affected my family and others close to me. My anxiety, distraction, and craving for approval don’t go unnoticed and sometimes inflict pain on them.
My wife Laura and I were able to share the retreat experience with our 30-year-old son, Andrew. I took the opportunity to admit to them that they have suffered at times from the abrasive qualities that emerge from me when I keep God’s love at arm’s length. We enjoyed communion together as a family and with the group gathered in the Corhaven woodshop.
Jean Vanier said, “What does it mean to abide in Jesus? To abide in Jesus is to make our home in him and to let Jesus make his home in us. We feel at home with him and in him. It is a place of rest for one another and presence to one another.”
I’m feeling more at home and at rest in Jesus’ presence. The practices of silence and solitude fill me up. Those close to me are better qualified to tell you if I offer them a hint of Jesus’ restful, healing presence.
We often quote C.S. Lewis: “Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”
I love the confounding simplicity of that.
Laura and I discovered Coracle and Corhaven while looking for personal retreat locations. In recent years we have discovered a deeper sense of God’s love and compassion for us through grief over the death of our 24-year-old son, Jason, in Feb. 2014, and through confronting our deepest brokenness and patterns of rebellion. In addition to our beloved Bethany Community Church family, Coracle is among several resources God is providing for this leg of our pilgrimage.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Advent retreat in December. We had already signed up for the “God Loves You” retreat when we found out about the fellowship program. The commitment frankly felt a bit daunting, but through prayer and conversation with Bill we discerned that this was an invitation we were delighted to accept in response to God’s love for us.
The intensive retreat content, spiritual discipline practices, readings, assignments and fellowship with other participants offer exactly what we need right now. We are also well aware that we travel this road not for ourselves alone. We love Coracle’s emphasis on “Spiritual formation for kingdom action.”
We sense that the Coracle Spiritual Formation Fellowship is already helping us to serve others from a deeper reservoir of God’s love and presence within us.
Laura and I are enjoying this journey through the fellowship with a delightful group of travelers who love Jesus and are discovering insights and spiritual practices that allow us to better live in and offer his presence to others.