I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.
(St. Patrick's Breastplate)
In order to get to the Laity Lodge, I drove into the Frio River in a baptism that, I'm guessing, hundreds, if not thousands, of retreat participants have experienced before me. If you want your time reading this post to be a multi-media experience, I've included some of my favorite "water" songs for your listening pleasure.
When it came time to actually leave home for this long-awaited retreat I discovered much anxiety rising to the surface of me. Some of it, I quickly realized, was just plain ol' separation anxiety. But there was more than that, too. Several weeks prior to driving through this river, David Taylor had emailed an offer for the retreat leaders to pray specifically over those of us attending, if we'd only send them our requests. I didn't know my request until a few days before departure: I want to be able to be fully present -- not self-conscious of my lack of credentials or lack of intelligence or lack of experience. In truth, I shared through the gmail confessional: I feel like a little kid sitting at the big kids' table.
That "table" motif showed up time and again throughout the retreat -- in both affirming and painful ways. I will get to that story in a follow-up post. Before that, though, I want to share with you a sentence that David spoke into my voice mailbox. Words that reminded me of my truest identity in which all my other known selves are founded. He said these words: You are not at the little kids' table, you are at the common table. You have every right to be at this table. He also affirmed me in some specific ways but added the sentence that were like that of a deep calling to deep: Tell Jesus when you are having these thoughts and He will help you.
I did, in fact, find a gracious welcome to the common table from the group of fearless, faithful ministers and artists at this retreat. Still, I know for certain that my Father most wanted me to hear this gentle reminder of His role in offering me help and grace and comfort and correction through the work of His Son, the Christ, the Savior of all mankind and, not least of all, me. My identity is securely placed in His work on the Cross and is reminded to me through the ministry of His Spirit in prayer and through the community of saints surrounding me.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
Entering the Laity Lodge grounds, I turned off my cell phone (there was no coverage anyway). I had left my laptop at home. I was essentially disconnected from any comforts of identity from my normal, every day life. I entered into the murky pool of connection with a group of people I only knew as a list of names spit out in a word document the retreat staff had mailed to me ahead of time. Entering into that unknown, frankly, terrified me more than driving through the waters of the Frio River and not being able to see to the bottom. I could only trust that someone knew I'd be coming and that my safety mattered to them!
This was a good exercise to initiate my fearful heart. I did not know how these days would turn out, how lonely, how overwhelmed, how vulnerable or how annoyed or how exhausted or how marginalized I might feel. But I trusted two things: those who had loved Jesus and gone before me and , more than any other, the Jesus who knows me and my trials better than I do, myself. I am identified in the death, burial, resurrection, ascension and authority of this Christ.