"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen since what is seen in temporary and what is unseen is eternal" 2 Corinthians 4:18
Since I started attending Florida Gulf Coast, I have been going to Ignite, which is a college ministry and it is honestly one of the best groups I have ever joined. Being a part of Ignite has helped me grow in my relationship with God more than I ever thought I would be able to. I have also met some of the best people through this ministry. This past weekend I attended Fall Retreat in Deerfield Beach, and it was a life-changing weekend. Fall Retreat was a weekend of worship, hanging out with friends, learning more about God's word, and for me, growth.
I am so glad that I decided to go, despite my circumstances. Fall Retreat fell on a hard weekend for me. The weekend that this retreat was, also happened to be the same weekend of my dad's anniversary. I was nervous to go, but my roommate talked me into going by reminding me that I wouldn't be alone, and she was right.
When we got there on Friday evening we ate dinner and then had our very first session. We had a guest speaker, Jim, and he was great. He knew how to hold your attention and he was very knowledgeable about the Bible. After our first session we met with our small groups and talked about what we had learned from him, and some stuff that stood out to us, and what we were hoping to gain from this weekend. There was a lot that I was hoping to gain this weekend, and it was to gain more of a trust in God. I feel like I am always falling short in placing complete trust in Him.
Saturday was a busy day, we had to get up early, and had some back to back sessions that were amazing. These two sessions really struck me and showed me that there was a reason that I was at this retreat. We were reading through 2 Corinthians 4, and Jim was talking about how we should be willing to suffer because of the Gospel. At first, I was confused, why would I want to suffer? But the suffering we feel now is temporary and does not compare to eternity in Heaven. This really hit close to home for me, since this weekend I did struggle a lot with different emotions. He went on to talk about how there will be no more brokenness and evil in the new Heaven and Earth. Hearing that was reassuring to me, and once again reminded me that the suffering I am experiencing now is only temporary.
Saturday afternoon we had some free time, which was spent enjoying the beach, and dinner with my community group. That evening we did not have a session, but instead, we had a worship night. I typically love worship nights, but on this particular evening, I was just finding it so hard to worship God. I was hurting, and I really didn't know how to worship God through this period of hurt. How could I worship God when I was feeling so much brokenness? I broke down into tears towards the middle of trying to worship, and my friend who was standing next to me put her arm around me and sat with me in this time of my confusion and hurt. My roommate also came and sat next to me and took my hand. I am so thankful for the support of these lovely people. I knew that those moments were bound to happen, and I would not have been able to get through it without them. We had to meet with our small groups that evening, and I almost just skipped because I was so upset, but I decided it wouldn't hurt to just go and listen. So I went outside and found them, and sat towards the back kind of out of everyone's sight. I wanted to be there but I didn't want to be noticed by everyone. My small group leader saw I was having a tough time, and she respected that. I sat behind her and just listened and absorbed what everyone else was saying. I ended up spending that evening with my small group leader just talking and trying to get everything off my chest. It was amazing to have her support, and after a little while of talking about everything I was going through, she had me laughing about some other stuff she was telling me about so I felt so much better after spending time with her. I am blessed that God put her in my life this semester.
The day I have been dreading was here, I woke up feeling weird, but I was pretty distracted since I had my friends in the same room. I proceeded to just get out of bed and get dressed for the day, with the lingering thought of my dad in the back of my mind. We went to breakfast, and our last session, and then had some baptisms on the beach. I was keeping it together pretty well and I was very surprised. We left after the baptisms and rode home, and when we got home I unpacked and napped because I was just exhausted. When I woke up from my nap, I was groggy, but I felt great. For the first time in 6 years, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy and peace. I knew God was there pulling me through this day. I did not shed one tear on Sunday, and I was so ecstatic because for the first time I saw that I was healing. I still missed my dad, but I handled it in a way I was never able to before. I felt happy on my dad's anniversary, I didn't think that would ever be possible for me. I know that it was Fall Retreat that really helped me with my healing process, and trust in God. Olivia told me all along that there was a reason why Fall Retreat fell on my dad's anniversary, and now I see why. God used the people and sessions at this retreat to help me through this time, and I now have a new outlook on losing my dad that I have never been able to see before. It's a brand new start, and I wouldn't have been able to do it without this weekend and all it entailed.