If any of y’all are wondering why I didn’t blog for the past three days, it was because I was away on retreat. However, I wasn’t a participant, but a staff member. Due to confidentiality, I can’t talk about what I did this weekend in detail, but I can divulge everything I felt that weekend.
I should tell you that before this retreat, I have never been a staff member. Heck, I was never a staff member for anything in high school or college. But I was eager to do my part and help create the best weekend for 40+ young adults.
In theatre, there’s a saying: “There are no small parts, only small actors.” This applies to retreats as well as to life itself. One of Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten meditations this weekend talks about how people are often so caught up in having life revolve around them rather than try a role that God wants them to try. In my case, although I was a volunteer, I was assigned a position that I did not ask for. However, I decided to accept it and offer it up.
At first, it was a lot of fun. I got to be hands-on, involved in preparing many events and activities. By the end of the first day, my legs were totally sore from being on my feet the whole day, but I felt that it was totally worth it.
The next day was more intense than the first, for both the retreaters and for me. It started off well, with me helping the retreaters grow in their faith and assisting in a Bible study. But a lot of little disappointments happened throughout the day. I was a newcomer to the staff, so there were times that I felt left out amidst the more experienced workers. It built up to a point that by the time dinner came around, I found that I had nowhere to sit. I went off to a staff-only room and started crying.
I hated that I felt left out and invisible. I wanted to be okay with the idea of not being noticed or belonging, but I wasn’t. Throughout the day, I kept pushing aside those small times when I hated being unacknowledged and dinnertime was the breaking point. I didn’t understand why I felt forgotten even though I prayed to have that fear of being forgotten taken away from me. Then, a few people came into the room: two acquaintances and a priest. I told them about how I was feeling, how I hated how I felt, and how I wished I felt something else.
I don’t remember the specific words that the priest said, but he did say something about how the Lord might be testing me in my desire for humility. My acquaintances reassured me that even though I didn’t think my actions went unnoticed, they did notice and, more importantly, God noticed. I realized two things after venting:
1) I had to acknowledge how I felt with indifference. Acknowledging an emotion, positive or negative, means identifying how you feel. However, you can’t think that the emotion you feel is good or bad, you just have to accept that it’s there.
2) I was finally experiencing everything I was writing about for the past week. I now know what it’s like to live out my faith, what it meant to be humble, what it meant to empty and completely surrender myself.
In other words, the priest was right. I was being tested by God. But God was there even when I wasn’t aware of Him. Fr. Robert Barron’s Friday meditation says that Christ crucified is where God finds us when we are at our darkest. It’s no coincidence that the staff room I hid in had a crucifix and that I was crying underneath it. God was with me there and then.
Earlier in this blog, I compared challenging yourself in Lent to learning how to swim. During this weekend, I felt like I was swimming myself over a waterfall. But after focusing myself on God, I found my center with Him. I realized that I needed Him and that He would always be with me. I meditated on Psalm 139 that night during Adoration. Then, the same priest who consoled me read a passage from the Gospel of Luke, the story of the bleeding woman. One verse resonated with me: “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” I felt healed as soon as I heard it. Like Fr. Robert Barron said in his meditation for today, my life felt elevated because I encountered Christ alongside everyone else.
The rest of the night was wonderful. I got to know more people and felt excited for the upcoming day.
But it wouldn’t be long before I would be tested again.
Towards the end of the retreat, I started to feel left out again. This time, it was because it didn’t seem like there was any material proof the words my friends told me yesterday were true. This time, I knew I was being tempted, but I felt the tears coming around again. This time, I pulled one of my friends aside and went to a staff-only room with her. She became that material proof that took the doubts away, telling me that I was appreciated and that my work hasn’t gone unnoticed. She wanted to hang out with me after the retreat. That was all I needed. I know, I’m a doubting Thomas. But I got over myself a lot faster this time.
The last day of the retreat involved a lot of prayer and amazing music. I’ll end this blog entry with a few songs from the retreat and pictures that I took today that reminded me of everything I experienced.
May the blessing of the Lord be upon you, the blessing of the Father and the Son and may the spirit of God, the spirit of love be with you all your days.