A month ago I attended a retreat that just days before I hadn’t even heard of by a ministry that only weeks before that I had come across through apparent happenstance during my internship. This apparent happenstance was actually divine providence through the amazing work of the Holy Spirit. This ministry was New Direction, and this retreat was the Generous Spaciousness Conference Retreat (GSCR) at Crieff Hills Retreat Center in, quite literally, the middle of nowhere. It was beautiful, quiet and a refreshing change of scenery from the city life.
I was invited to go on this GSCR by Wes Patterson and at first I have to admit that I was hesitant to attend. This hesitancy came from a place of insecurity where I was afraid that if I went on the retreat that I would be moving on into a place of self acceptance, and I felt unworthy at the time of this kind of acceptance. It wasn’t until I spoke to my brother Jason that I realized that this fear was not a valid reason to deny myself the opportunity to learn, grow and move forward, and taking that first step was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It ultimately helped me experience true wholeness and authenticity in Christ, as well as engage with more members of the Body of Christ in a safe and genuine environment while learning about Generous Spaciousness.
That being said, I am going to give you the top five things about this retreat that changed my life due to New Direction.
5. Having the opportunity to hear the stories from people who journeyed before me, and being able to relate to their experiences while actually seeing for myself that it does get better. Hearing all their “…but God” stories on how He intervened in their lives in powerful and magnificent ways was incredibly encouraging for me on a personal level. This was because a lot of my life I thought that I was the exception, that God would work in all their lives but not mine. I felt defined by my past experiences more than Christ, and because of that I didn’t really believe that it would get better for me, fortunately I now know I was mistaken.
4. Having the freedom to completely let go of the façade I had grown naturally accustomed to wearing for years was so incredibly powerful that I didn’t feel the full impact of that until after the weekend. In my life I had conditioned myself to monitor myself and pretend to be something that I was not for long enough that, like many people, I had began to actually believe it and it would be almost effortless, except that type of personal, self imposing deceit takes a toll. At the GSCR I got to experience a genuine, more authentic version of myself…no, not version but my real self. There is something so powerful about being able to be truthful to your own reality without fear judgment and that was a freedom I had the privilege of experiencing at the GSCR.
3. As Christians from many different traditions within the Body of Christ we all have had the chance to experience the presence of Christ in a myriad of ways. For example, my background is Christian Reformed and Pentecostal so when I am in a worship setting I am most comfortable in one of those two settings and I know what to expect. All that being said, when we were engaged in praise and worship there was something so fantastic and awesome about the presence of the Holy Spirit in that place, that it felt as though heaven had come down—if only for just a moment. Being in a room full of LGBT persons who all share a common love for Christ was a genuine honor; and it helped me feel connected with the general Body of Christ once again.
2. The leadership of New Direction placed us in prearranged community groups where each member had a unique story to tell and we could, ideally, learn from one another and appreciate each other’s stories. When I first heard of the community groups I didn’t really think that our community groups would be so pivotal in my retreat experience, but my group’s impact on my retreat experience was fundamental to my growing understanding of God in my life and my understanding of displaying generous spaciousness. Our community group was a safe, confidential place where we could let our guard down and be ourselves and work out what Generous Spaciousness really looked like for us, while living it within the interactions with one another. By the end of the weekend it felt more like a family than a small group. We cried together, prayed together and wrestled with our ever so real realities together.
1. By the end of the weekend I walked away from the retreat feeling rejustified as a child of the Most High, an heir with Christ and someone who was fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14, NIV). My identity in Christ and call of God was reaffirmed and strengthened like never before. My personal belief that God has created me with wonderful plans and that His love and compassion for me is unconditional was rekindled. I also walked out of the retreat feeling a new appreciation for life. Prior to the events of the GSCR I was walking through life either simply content with little enthusiasm with what life had to bring me, or a level of premature anticipation of being present with the Lord. I was so distant from the Church and with my genuine acceptance of my identity in Christ that there was no true joy in me; because of this retreat my faith and life were both reaffirmed and secured once again within the infinite love of God, as well as the Christlikeness of His people!
I hope that this personal account of how the GSCR genuinely impacted my life inspires you to pursue Christ wherever you’re at, and whatever your reality is. I firmly believe that there is no circumstance or situation bigger than God and if my experiences at this retreat helps inspire you to learn more about what Generous Spaciousness looks like for you then feel free to contact New Direction.