You will recall last month that I wrote to you about my experience with God during a recent silent retreat. The title was, He called me Vinnie. Well, exactly one month to the day later I had another precious encounter with our Lord while attending my second retreat on the very same mountain. Let me share my experience:
Upon arrival at this wonderful and breathtakingly beautiful property on the local mountains outside of Colorado Springs, I and a group of about ten of my men from our local OTI settled in for a brief orientation from our host. After our opening meeting and instruction we all separated and headed out to different locations around the property to begin about 5 hours of complete silence. It is a time to pray, read God’s Word, search our hearts and hear from God.
As I left the main building I remember thinking that I wanted to try a different direction then the last time I was here. So, I started down a long and winding path to find my perfect spot to meet with the Author and Finisher of my faith. Well, it was a long and very steep downhill trek. I remember thinking, I am going to have to go back this way and it is going to be a steep uphill hike. When I reached the bottom, it was a dead end.
Well, I am one that can attest to what happens when you reach a dead end, when you go in a direction of your choosing and not necessarily the one God would have directed. The journey back can be a long uphill road, and it was. So, my first experience on this day was a reminder of how important it is to make sure God is directing you and that you are not going on in your own flesh.
At the top of the hill and out of breath, I began searching for a good place to camp out and have my quiet time. As I came close to the place I found on my last trip here I found a nice clearing on the side of a hill. It looked and felt right so I put down my backpack chair and sat down to begin with some reading. I read several devotionals and pulled out some thoughts that hit me. The first was out of Streams In The Desert.
Above all, remember—when God hides His face from you, do not say that He has forgotten you. He is simply waiting for a little while to make you love Him more. And once He comes, you will rejoice with the inexpressible “joy of the LORD” (Ne 8:10). Waiting on Him exercises your gift of grace and tests your faith. Therefore continue to wait in hope, for although the promise may linger, it will never come too late. Charles H. Spurgeon
This was a special word for me—I need to remember that His answers are never too late and how important it is to know He is not hiding but waiting for the proper time.
Then I read this from Blackabee’s Experiencing God devotional—
If you feel strong in an area of your life, beware! Often your strength, rather than your weakness, hinders you from trusting God. God will bring you to a point of weakness if that is what it takes to bring you to trust in Him. Do not despise your weakness, for it leads you to trust in God's strength.
Another profound word that hit me square between my eyes. If you are like me you probably boast way to much about your strengths and, unlike the Apostle Paul, do not understand the power of your weaknesses. This often comes from a failure to be broken.
Then finally I encountered this excerpt from the writings of Dwight L. Moody—
I was crying all the time that God would fill me with His Spirit. Well, one day, in the city of New York—ah, what a day!—I cannot describe it. I seldom refer to it, it is almost too sacred an experience to name—Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years—I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand.
This incredible man’s ministry really began after he had this encounter. I remember crying out after reading this—I WANT THIS LORD.
Well—now I was situated in my chair looking up at the beauty of God’s creation spread out before me. As I pondered its magnificence my eyes pulled back and focused on a large tree that had fallen and was broken in two pieces right in front of me. As I focused upon the broken area of the tree I found that my eyes were then drawn through the brokenness and I again saw the beauty of His creation. It was at that moment God clearly spoke words to me that hit, and hit hard.
My creative purpose lies on the other side of your brokenness
I remember vividly—as though it were yesterday—the words of my dear friend and pastor, Jack Hayford. It was many years ago that he told me, Vince, you are a marble that God wants to turn into a grape. He reminded me that a marble will not allow itself to be crushed unless the pressure is extremely intense. So it is with you and me oftentimes. A grape will be crushed easily and the resulting juices will then flow and can nourish the lives of others.
This was a profound time for me—one that I would never have experienced unless I had given myself to a protracted time of listening to God and being quiet. It was also a reminder to me of how desperately I desire to see His creative purpose worked out in my life. The take away for me? The only thing standing in the way of my seeing His great purpose fulfilled is my own stubbornness. HOW ABOUT YOU?