The retreat is called Pursued, and it's put on by a group of ladies that includes my pretty amazing sister-in-law, Heather. Her husband, Justin's brother Jonathan, also helps lead up a men's retreat called Z Experience that Justin went on in September.
The whole thing is held at a ranch that Jonathan now manages called Watchtower Ranch.
|Photo Cred: Jonathan|
There's something crazy about this place. I realize completely that God's presence is with us always through the gift of the Holy Spirit, but this place is simply anointed. You feel it from the second you step on to the property. It is a "thin space" for sure.
We spent 3 days here. Most of what happens at the ranch stays at the ranch. :) It is a sacred time and place with other people who are genuine about seeking freedom and healing from our Father. That means a lot of what happens and what is said is kept sacred. However, we each come home with our own stories that we are able to share. I hope to try to share some of mine here, mostly for my own memory, but hopefully to encourage you as well. It is all really too much to put into one post, so I am going to try to do it in parts until He tells me I am done. That could be 3 parts or 30. We'll have to see. My first part covers fear, which is actually something that manifests itself into so many other areas...that will all come later though.
So here we go...
I had an advantage (disadvantage??) in going into this weekend because I knew bits and pieces of things to come. Justin had told me about his experience on Z, and I had heard little things here and there from Jonathan and Heather. I knew part of our weekend included "wilderness time" on the ranch where you find a spot and go to town with Jesus. I knew from the second we drove onto the property where I would go for my first wilderness time. Jonathan had cut the hay in the very front pasture, and I knew that's where I needed to go...the front pasture to a hay bale on the far left. So, I set out our first morning intent on getting there. I had my things, grabbed a chair, and I was the first one out the door. I was on a mission.
Walking down the long driveway, I was, of course, scanning the place for critters...namely snakes. It is a working ranch in the middle of the summer after all. To say I had a fear of seeing a slithering creature would be an understatement. I walked along, feeling pretty determined, when I saw *something* in the road. It was a pile of something...a pile that seemed to me was either a coiled up snake or a turtle basking in the morning sun. Now, I know those are two very different things, but there was zero chance of me getting close enough for my near-sighted eyes to really tell the difference.
I immediately panicked.
Y'all...I'm talking PANICKED. Heart pounding, hands sweating, panic.
I knew I was supposed to go to that pasture to a hay bale on the far left. I knew it deep in my soul that God was waiting there for me at that spot, but I could not, would not bring myself to walk past the turtle/snake mass in the road. I turned around and started heading back the way I came, but I immediately felt God telling me (very firmly) "No!". I knew it was disobedient to not go where He had specifically told me to go, but I could not get past the fear of that being a snake in the road. I turned around again, rocks in hand, determined that I would throw a rock at it and hopefully it would move off the road far enough to let me run by, or at the very least it would reveal that it was a harmless turtle.
My hands were shaking so badly, I could not even toss a rock close enough to make it move! (It could also be the fact that I am a horrible thrower. My two-year-old seriously has better aim than I do.)
I spent a solid two minutes debating on what to do. Do I just run as fast as I can past it and hope for the best, or do I turn around and do what I know I am not supposed to do?
About that time, another lady in the group came walking in that direction. I very (embarrassingly) told her I thought there was a turtle/snake (but I was leaning toward snake) curled up in the road, and I didn't have the guts to pass it. She agreed that she couldn't tell what it was, but she thought it was most likely a turtle. (Hindsight : She was just being VERY nice to me.) She grabbed a stick and said she would walk past it with me so we could both get to where we were going. I was still scared, but I couldn't act like it if she was willing to walk past with me...I would just walk waaaaayyy on the other side of her! So, we take off toward it...and discover...
it was a rock.
A rock! I had wasted my time being afraid of a rock! We laughed it off and continued on our way, but as soon as I was on my own again God laid it out for me.
I let so many "rocks" in my life become snakes in the road. So many times I am on the path of obedience...the path God has directed me to take. Then, I come to a *something* in the road. I don't let myself get close enough to see what it really is so my mind immediately turns it into the worst case scenario. (It's not just a turtle...It's a snake! A poisonous snake that is sure to bite me!) Then, I waste time debating on whether or not I am going to suck it up and force myself to go past it or turn back in disobedience.
It is very humbling to admit that 9 times out of 10, I turn back.
I turn back out of fear.
I let fear distort the rocks in the road and turn me away from the path of obedience, which then means I miss out on the best God has for me.
My spot in that pasture ended up being almost magical. I found three hay bales that made a triangle and sat in the shade and intimacy of their configuration. It was beautiful and special and exactly what I needed.
Only, I would have missed out on that if I had turned around. Would my time with God have been good somewhere else? Yeah. Would it have been the amazing time He had prepared in advance for me in the shadows of those hay bales? No. It would have been good, but not the BEST.
I learned a lot about fear that weekend...more than just pretend snakes in the road. I learned that I let fear control how I perceive other people, how I perceive God, how I perceive myself, how I live every single aspect of my life. You could pretty much fill in the blank after "Fear of: ____" with whatever you wanted--rejection, embarrassment, failure, the unknown-- and it would have applied to me.
The crazy thing is, I don't think I would have ever thought to call all of those feelings "fear." Sure, they were "insecurity" or "guardedness," but I never really got that those are all FEAR.
And in case you didn't know, fear is NOT from God. He never, ever intended for me to live life imprisoned by what might be. Jesus came to give me life...a rich and satisfying life (John 10:10 NLT). He came to give me freedom.
And that is exactly what I got...but that comes later...
Part 2 coming soon. :)