A few weeks before the Ignite Retreat, I started to see my counselor again due to some family and personal issues that came up. I was going through a really rough time, to say the least. I went to the spring retreat last year and had an amazing experience, and knew that I needed this kind of experience with God again to get through the type of pain I was feeling.
As much as my counselor, friends, and family could help me, there is no one like God who can help you overcome certain obstacles; after all, He puts these obstacles in our lives for a reason, anyway, so it makes sense that He knows how to persevere past them. I asked my boyfriend to come with me, because he had some things going on in his life as well, and I wanted to strengthen his faith in God, and challenge him to think about his relationship with Him.
The theme of the retreat was Salt and Light and I had a feeling this was going to be an extremely beneficial, life-changing experience for the both of us; after the very first night, I had the confirmation I needed. Pastor Tim talked about how we need to stop always asking what others bring to the table, and instead ask what do WE bring to the table, what do we bring to our relationships, how can we be the salt of the earth and the light of the world? This is what I spent my time of silence the following morning thinking about.
I tried to think about what I bring to my friendships, my relationship with my boyfriend, and my relationship with my family; however, God had a different plan. I felt him asking me to think what I bring to my relationship with Him. Yeah, I go to church, I read the bible, I am kind to those around me, I am an overall pretty good person; but, as Victor Randall told us during one of the sessions, “anyone can be a good person, it doesn’t take Jesus to be a decent person.”
I needed to realize that my relationship with God isn’t as strong as it needs to be and that I need to strengthen this relationship if I want to be more than just a decent person, if I want to be more like Him. I talk to God when I am struggling with school, when I am arguing with my friends and family, when I am in financial trouble, etc. But what about when He helped me to stay focused and alert and get an A on my last exam? What about when He softened my heart and my friends’ hearts and allowed us to overcome a certain argument? What about when He helped me get through my undergraduate career without any loans or debt?
I learned in this time, that I need to be more appreciative of God and I need to show this gratitude and what God can do for me to others. I need to do more than just be a good person, I need to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. I tried to think of how I can be these things- what do I bring to the table? I realized that the light I have to offer is my ability to talk to nearly anyone, that I can always seem to lighten the mood and make people laugh with my dad jokes and overall positive attitude. This is how I need to share my faith, this is how I can serve God and lead more people to Him, by showing them that God has done amazing things for me, and He can and will do the same for them.
The last session was led by Jason and he discussed the idea of God placing us in situations that we don’t think we can get through, and he referred to these undesirable situations as “fires”. Because of the situations I was going through, my boyfriend was going through, and that other students at the retreat were going through, I knew God had Jason talk about this for a reason.
He made the analogy of the fact that clay needs to be placed in a fire long enough so that it does not break when touched, due to the brittleness. Just like clay, we too, need to be placed in fires for a certain amount of time to become stronger in the end, to ensure that we do not reach a breaking point when other hardships are thrown our way. We need to trust in God when He puts us in these fires, because He will, without a doubt, always be in our corner.
After the retreat, I felt something had changed in me, and I had hope that everything i was going through, was going to be resolved and that I just had to hold out a little longer, because God was going to fix everything. By Tuesday, my boyfriend’s issues were resolved and God had cleared his mind and allowed him to be at ease. By Thursday, my family was got some very good news, allowing us to finally put our issues to rest. On Saturday, I left to present my research at the National ACS conference in Orlando, along with some of my peers, who happen to not be Christians. I have tried to talk about God with two of them specifically before, but it has never gone well, so I gave up.
After this retreat, I knew I had to be the salt and light for them, and I knew I had to try again. One night, I asked both of them to go on a walk with me. I told them about my experience at the retreat and, instead of laughing at me or insulting me about like they have done previously, they asked me questions, asked me what I learned and how I plan to apply it. While this talk did not instantly lead them towards the cross, it did help them to challenge my faith, their own, and allow us to have a civilized conversation about why God is so important in our lives.
Without this retreat, I wouldn’t have known that my purpose, the salt and light I have to offer, is my ability to talk to anyone, to make anyone feel happy and comfortable around me. I know now that in order to strengthen my relationship with God, to fulfill my overall purpose of serving him, I must use this characteristic I have in order to share my faith and lead others to Him, so that they can experience the type of miracles I have experienced. I want to thank all of the donors for making this retreat to happen, not only allowing me to go, but also allowing others to go. I know that this retreat had a huge impact on me, and I can only imagine it had a similar effect on everyone that came. Because of this retreat, I know that I am the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and I am loved by the most loving God.