Lent, Obedience, Refine Retreat, Surrender

On Baptism And Heading To Refine Retreat

On Baptism And Heading To Refine Retreat

The chief biblical analogy for baptism is not the water that washes but the flood that drowns.   ~William Willamon

This week I will gather with 40 women for the 2nd Refine {the retreat}. If you’d told me 13 months ago that I’d be hosting another retreat, I’d have nodded at you, not in agreement, but in acknowledgement of the absurdity of the notion. Refine wasn’t supposed to become a thing. I never set out to start something.

I had my own ideas. I wanted my own private retreat.

Instead, God asked me to lay down my want for a different purpose.

Discipleship is more than turning over a new leaf. It’s more fitful and disorderly than gradual moral formation. Nothing less than daily, often painful, lifelong death will do. ~William Willimon

As the retreat gets closer, I can’t help but reflect on how I ever ended up here in the first place. This retreat wasn’t my dream. Six years ago I started to write a book about the broken body of Christ. I managed to write three fitful chapters before what began as one thing, turned a sharp corner and became something else entirely. It turned out, I was writing about something I knew nothing about–not really, not yet. In the midst of that arrogant journey, God slain me dead. That project, coupled with the entire book of Isaiah, and a hearty serving of Brennan Manning’s words, lead me to the edge of the river and caused me to fall backwards into the gulf of grace and be washed.

Actually, it was less like washing and more like drowning. It was there that I found both my end and a new begining. God is always doing a new thing. Most of the time, we operate out of ignorance. We don’t have imagination enough for the things of God.

“On two occasions, Jesus uses ‘baptism’ to refer to his own impending death. He asks his half-hearted disciples, ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptized with the baptism wth which I must be baptized?’ (Mark 10:38) ~William Willimon

That book that started everything now sits hidden in a file on my computer somewhere. To be honest, after things went another direction, I haven’t had the heart to open it again. I don’t need to. That was never the book I was called to write. That book was an exercise. That book was an invitation to learn what discipleship means. That book was an altar call to repentance by way of the wilderness.

One thing leading to the next, a couple of years later, in 2014, I stood weepy before 24 brave women who said “yes” to God’s nudge to attend some unknown thing called Refine. They showed up! God showed up, and none of us have been the same since. Collectively and individually. We all left changed. At the time, I was so sure it was a one-time thing. I felt confident that it was just a single, solitary act of wild obedience, nothing more. And I was more than content with that. For two more years when people asked about “the next Refine“, I repeated the same line again and again: Only if and when God says to do it again. I won’t touch it otherwise.

Now we’re 4 days from Refine {the retreat}, aptly names “A Place Of Abundance“, because of all the things we tend to forget about God, it is that He is enough.  God is so much more than enough, but rather than believing this, we live tight-fisted and afraid. We live closed to stepping out in faith because we feel more certain of our doubts than of His love for us. We’re afraid to leap for fear of falling, or in my case, publicly failing. Because if there’s anything I don’t want, it’s to step out in faith and stand alone. If there’s anything that hinders me from living boldly into the places God cals me, it’s my fear of messing it up in front of you.

When I felt like I’d heard God on planning the next Refine, I had to come to terms with this fear, again. I had to build another altar. I had to climb up on to it. Again.

And again.

And again.

But in the midst of this, I’m reminded that God’s not looking for flawless followers. He’s looking for those willing to die. He’s looking for those hungry to believe that He is abundant–more than enough. Because when you believe this? You’ll do the crazy, soul-baring thing He’s asking you to. You’ll take the leap. You’ll see altars as doorways to really living.

The old life is left behind, and completely surrendered. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I didn’t get here over night.  This is what I want to tell you, because some of you are feeling self-conscience still standing on the edge, still weighing the cost, but we don’t even get to the edge without His help, so there’s no way we’re leaping in our own strength. We don’t have it in us. From the sidelines, God’s grace looks like a torrent, a dangerous red-flag surf sure to sweep you under. And it is, and it will. But it’s the wild mercy of it that saves us. It’s the thorough baptism that buries us in Christ. Even the willingness need, comes from Him. It’s His Spirit in us, that woos us ever nearer. It’s through obedience that we come to know the abundance of God.

A.W. Tozer wrote that “before we can be filled with the Spirit, the desire to be filled must be all-consuming. It must be for the time the biggest thing in life, so acute, so intrusive as to crowd out everything else. The degree of fullness in any life accords perfectly with the intensity of true desire. We have as much of God as we actually want.”

I wasn’t praying for the opportunity to host another Refine. I was asking God to consume me, to be my everything, to make me more like Himself. He answered my prayers with another invitation.  Refine then and now is an invitation, an offering, from God to us, from us back to Him. It’s an opportunity to encounter Him in ways we have yet to imagine–a place to experience His abundance.

My “one word” for 2017 wasn’t a word at all, but a question I felt God asking me: “What do you want me to do for you?” In response, I made a list of 12 things. At the top of my list, I had written, “teach me what surrender looks like”. Refine is a place of surrender for me. It is a response to the grace that God has generously doused me in time after time. It is my small obedience, my offering.

This is the season of Lent, a season of death and life, a spring- time renewal of our hope in the abundance of God’s love and mercy. “Lent is the season in which we ought to be surprised by joy.” (Bread & Wine)

How much of God do you want?

Ask Him to grow in you a insatiable desire for more of Himself. Let Him baptize you in His abundance.

For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)

 

Refine {the retreat} has a brand new website! For details about Refine and a sneak peek at what’s planned for 2018, click HERE.

 

Comments

  1. Sarah

    “..we don’t even get to the edge without His help, so there’s no way we’re leaping in our own strength.”

    So much yes. Love you, friend. Praying for you this week. May Jesus be the Center, the Enough, the Only this weekend. xoxo

    Reply

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