This past week I had an opportunity to go on a much needed retreat with my teammates. To be honest I wasn't exactly looking forward to it, mostly because I had finally gotten myself in to a nice daily routine and I knew leaving home would only interrupt that. Plus I hadn't seen some of my teammates in three months and I was nervous about seeing them again! Well, the retreat did in fact throw off my routine...but only for five days (today I jumped right back into it!) and as far as being nervous about seeing people, well that was just silliness on my part! I had a great time and it was so nice to see everyone (and meet our new team members in person!).
The speaker who came to share was us was really awesome and completely down to earth. Normally when I go to retreats or conferences I do everything in my power to completely avoid the speaker (both when they are speaking, by averting my eyes, and then also during down time), but I felt really comfortable around this guy and had no problem talking with him (maybe since he was from the USA and it was like having a little taste of my other home).
God did some pretty great things during this time as well...both in me and, I believe, in my team as a whole (which I am quite excited about)! I am sure I've talked about it in the past, but something God has really been teaching me and speaking to me about over the past several months (if not since I moved to this country) is that I am called to treat people not based on how they treat me, but rather based on the love of Christ for me. I am not suppose to live tit-for-tat (meaning you hurt me so that gives me permission to hurt you back...or you treated me bad so I can treat you bad), but rather I am suppose to love others unconditionally because Christ has loved me unconditionally and I represent Him (although sometimes trying to decipher what the most "loving" thing to do isn't always easy)!
To be honest I've always struggled with that because while I can try to live that way (although usually in my own strength) for small periods of time, I eventually get hurt and offended and decide that it's just not worth it and give up. Then a little while later I try again...and the same cycle happens...over and over. It's frustrating and I often beat myself up for going around and around and around this same mountain, when I obviously know God wants something better for me.
Our speaker started off his first message talking about two very basic things though, that brought this whole struggle back into a little more perspective. He said that we need to know our identity in Christ and we need to trust God (two things that I think pretty much go hand in hand, because if you know who you are in Him it's easier to trust God and if you trust God it's easier to believe what He has said about you). I mulled this over all retreat and then on Saturday morning when I was spending some quiet time alone with God I had this "ah-ha" moment where it dawned on me that when I walk in my true identity, relying on God and trusting Him to work in and through me, then I will be able to love people unconditionally (I think this is what it means, in part, by walking by faith)! That was a simple and yet quite profound moment for me (one of those things I've always known in my head, but had finally started to let it seep down into heart kind of understandings)! And I was so grateful for the confirmation of God moving in me through it!
Now to only have a more clearer understanding of how to keep myself from condemning myself when I fail at this and don't walk by faith and turn my back on everything I know to be true....because I know those moments will come (no matter how brief they are)...they always do and like the apostle Paul, I get frustrated because I keep doing that which I don't want to do and that which I don't want to do, I do! But this is a journey and I'm not going to figure it all out in one night (or even in five days), so for now I celebrate the current victories and I trust God to bring more and more clarity and revelation to me, as I draw closer to Him. Amen!