God doesn’t have to talk me into praying the Lord’s Prayer. “Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I naturally long for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done. It is a regular groaning of my soul before God in prayer. Usually in life, I feel vexed by all the ways God’s kingdom is not yet realized. I pray, “Lord, show me where You are at work. Show me where Your kingdom is coming.” I need to see what is good in order to persevere through what is bad.
This weekend my family went to Church Retreat, and I got a glimpse of the good. I got a little glimpse of where God’s kingdom is already coming, and I got a little glimpse of what it’s going to look like when it comes in its fullness. There just seems to be something about a Christian retreat that naturally clears away many stumblingblocks to seeing God’s kingdom come.
Retreat – the act of withdrawing, as into safety or privacy; dictionary.reference.com
We withdraw from big and small issues at a retreat. I didn’t see anyone all weekend with whom I had a major conflict (or even a minor one for that matter). I didn’t do laundry all weekend. I didn’t cook. I didn’t have to wash dishes, and my kids are old enough now that I could send them on their merry way to play with others on their bikes. I also took a break from reading work emails. I didn’t take my laptop and managed to ignore the boatload of responsibilities that were still waiting on me when I returned home. For 2 days, I didn’t worry about any of those things.
Instead, I did things like breath deeply and enjoy the sunset. I hiked a path through the woods and watched kids happily playing in the pool. I took in views of the ocean and mountains while sharing laughs at the dinner table, enjoying meals I didn’t make and didn’t have to clean up. Of course, angels weren’t making our dinners or cleaning up afterwards. Someone was doing the work. Yet, I remember well from my own service at a Christian camp and conference center that there are certain settings in which you remember that work didn’t start after the fall. You remember that God worked in perfection, and there is work that is hard but still good, rewarding, and peaceful nonetheless. I think I could work in that camp kitchen with that view and that blue sky at that temperature with those people daily without complaint for a very long time. We whistle while we work when God’s kingdom comes.
Our church retreat reflected to me the Eden for which we were originally designed and also pointed me to the New Jerusalem in which we will eternally dwell.
Two particular aspects of this Eden stood out to me—community without conflict and worship in the face of majesty. First, community without conflict. I know that there likely was conflict at various levels for many participants this weekend. For many, just the stress of having small children in a new setting inevitably caused conflicts. But I was fortunate to experience a mostly conflict free weekend of community. My boys experienced community with both kids their age and grownups, including the mutual sharing of bikes and scooters. At meals, kids mingled in and out of families. In the evening, parents would put down kids to sleep then sit together outside their cabins talking and laughing. There was a mutual nature to the community this weekend that made me understand the beauty of the early church as described in Acts.
Second, we worshipped in the face of majesty. I love Sunday worship. And I love beautiful landscapes. But Sunday worship in a beautiful landscape, well that’s almost unbeatable. It reminds me that we were created for paradise. Eden was a step beyond the Corona commercial. And whatever the landscape surrounding the New Jerusalem, we know it will be glorious for God Himself is its sun. There is something about worshipping God in the beauty of His creation that increases the joy of worship for me exponentially.
Then I had to drive away from the retreat, back down into the slog of daily life. I wanted to grasp and hold on to the feelings of community and worship for dear life, but I knew it was fleeting—a vapor that I could not grab and contain. Others had to get back to work and school as much as my family did, and it’s hard to have community when everyone else leaves the compound. But I am holding on to the feelings that community without conflict and worship in the face of majesty evoked in me this weekend. The memory of how that felt reminds me this busy Monday of what I was created for in perfection and what God is calling me back to for eternity with Him. That little glimpse ministers much grace to me, whetting my appetite for the day His kingdom comes in its fullness. Lord, come quickly.
Revelation 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!