March 10, 2008
Last weekend I attended the annual winter retreat for my church's high school youth group. It was my fifth winter retreat with this group, and while the kids are fantastic, the snow beautiful and the options for activity numerous, to be perfectly honest this retreat usually makes me want to--well, retreat. A long winter weekend in northern Wisconsin with a couple hundred high-energy people does not a happy space-heater-loving introvert make. In years past, the goodness of being away and the fun of being with students were somewhat overridden by coldness, lack of sleep and a desperate desire at some point in the weekend to find some place--inside--besides a small shower or bathroom stall to be alone.
After all that, I get back Sunday night, almost too tired to drag my poor suitcase--overstuffed as it is with almost everything warm I own--through the church parking lot to my car. Then I try to decide if an overpowering need for personal space can constitute a sick day on Monday. I always decide it can't, so I drag myself to work Monday morning after emerging from a sleep so sound that I'm pretty sure not even the arrival of firefighters to put out a fire in my own bedroom would wake me up. (I probably would just enjoy the extra warmth a fire brings.) Needless to say, I approached this year's retreat with some trepidation.
But, even with trepidation intact, the retreat last weekend was a good one--maybe my favorite of the five years I've attended. The senior girls, my coleader and I had a cabin all to ourselves, and therefore lots of time to talk and laugh and eat chocolate. And I actually got to play in the snow--as opposed to just scraping it off my car and driving around in it like I've been doing at home. And the camp has peanut butter and bread set out the entire weekend, day and night, for the snacking. You can hardly complain about a camp that is hospitable enough to provide peanut butter round the clock. Not to mention the fact that the youth group I help with won the extraordinarily competitive broomball tournament, my fellow youth leaders and I successfully snuck the speaker's car onto the broomball court during the final large-group worship session, and I learned that high school students still like to be read to.
In the midst of the fun and the stress and exhaustion of a retreat that was not exactly a retreat, I was tired enough, quiet enough, still enough, open enough to listen to God and watch for God and hear God and see God. I was also reminded what an amazing privilege it is to walk alongside others--especially this small group of fantastic senior girls whom I've watched grow and learn for the past three-and-a-half years--and help them look for and see God too.
I'll admit that the following weekend I thought a couple of times how grateful I was to be in my own bed and apartment, to be warm, to not have to be constantly social. But I've also been even more grateful for the girls I lead, and for the ways and places God speaks. Extraordinary Tiredness met God and had to depend on God in new ways. And God answered--like he does here, in the midst of my everyday life when I'm still enough, quiet enough, open enough to go to him.
While you ponder that, I'm going to go fix something hot to drink and turn up my space heater. I'm still making up for lost time.