Edna Bovas is a guest contributor to the Generous Space blog. They are currently serving as our Canada Summer Job’s student and are assisting with summer events and communications including the 2018 Generous Space CampOUT.
What we assumed was the Big Dipper, and the lingering moon lent us their pale light. All remnants of the campfire, including the raucous singing of fellow retreaters, had left us. Only the guitar that accompanied us earlier, the circle of stones that listened to our music, and the picnic table that now carried our weight remained. The dandelions gently squished under our feet as we competed; who could do the most pushups and do the worm on the grass that streaked our palms and tickled our chins? Who could do the most pullups using on that old gnarled branch and jump off its hunched over trunk? Who could abandon themselves to the hills and roll down its slopes?
We taught each other to sing Titanium and dance bachata; dandelion seedlings melted into the night sky. When we shared our stories, our songs, our crushes, we giggled like children, sipped on warm alcohol, and chanted,
“You give and take away,
You give and take away,
my heart will choose to say,
Lord blessed be your name.”
Friendship is a courageous choice rooted in the fruits of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) writes,
“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” As the five of us that night practiced being in relationship with one another, we exercised through the guidance of the Spirit those fruits that allowed us to experience the sweetness of friendship. The Spirit was present as we star-gazed, competed in love, learned from each other, and listened to the bittersweet stories that brought us to the retreat. What could be more evident that we are the body of Christ than when we embody the fruits of the Spirit as we relate to the each other across our differences.
That night, whose warmth and gentle breeze made even the leaves of otherwise silent trees wave at us, we all made a choice to laugh and cry in intentional community. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them,” writes Matthew 18:20 (NIV), and I believe as I write this reflection that God was indeed present: in us, through us, and between us. We chose to be courageous because we engaged with each other in our full, vulnerable, selves, despite that fact the retreat only lasted a couple of days and we were already dependent on each other’s company. Behind our choice to engage with one another on such a vulnerable level, lies the shadow of power. Power to choose to love our neighbour and in doing so also love ourselves, regardless of the hurt our friends and families inflicted on us because of our sexuality and/or gender identity.
That was the lesson I learned that night at the retreat: we possess the power to choose love. We possess the power to choose love through our similarities, as well as our differences. This is the same power that Jesus exercised when he dialogued with the Samaritan woman at the well; when he protected the woman convicted of adultery; when he looked upon the woman who anointed him with expensive perfume with love rather than judgement; and when he wept with Martha and Mary for their brother Lazarus. Jesus chose love when crucified, he chose love in resurrection.
I invite you to reflect on this power we all possess to choose love, and more importantly choose love as we continue to reflect on the retreat, extend our friendship to one another, and exhibit the fruits of the Spirit in all our encounters with others.