You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am (Psalm 139:3 NLT).
Sunday morning marked the conclusion of our men's retreat weekend. The air was brisk. The sky was clear. The sun peaked over the mountain in the east like a beacon announcing the new day. Birds engaged in a cacophony of song, trying to out do one another in bringing attention to their forest home.
Dawn broke, and with it God gave me another chance to love Him and acknowledge His presence in my life. He gave me another occasion to experience His unconditional love.
The weekend closed with breakfast and a beautiful outdoor communion service. Although anxious to return to my family and my comfortable bed, like many others in attendance, I would've liked to stay on the mountain top to experience God in the special way He made possible over that weekend.
I heard heartfelt descriptions of faith-journeys from other brothers in Christ. As the theme of the retreat, "Living My Faith," unfolded, it became clear to me that a faith-journey does not exclude times of doubt. Instead, perseverance and trusting God is the ultimate goal in living one's faith through those times.
When one man emotionally described his battle with fear and doubt, I felt as if he were describing my experience. I discovered that despite our diverse lives, the men with whom I shared this retreat are more aligned than different. Most importantly, each of us was able to openly tell his story, knowing he would be loved and accepted by all.
God's love was with us as we bared our souls and shared our joys and sorrows. The Father's encouraging and comforting hands rested on us as we stepped onto unfamiliar ground and described our life experiences in the context of faith.
Later, while driving down the mountain and taking in the grandeur of nature as the winding road brought me closer to my inevitable return to everyday life, I felt an urge to pray. I parked off the road near a giant pine tree and thought about how grateful I was for my experiences during the retreat on the mountain top. I realized that without faith in God, I would never have been so blessed. I thanked Him for loving and accepting me, for blessing me with a loving wife and children, and for allowing me to experience my Christian brothers and their expressions of genuine love and encouragement.
I prayed that God would continue to strengthen my faith. I asked Him to send the Holy Spirit to make me aware that doubt serves to breed a desire to trust God more deeply, ultimately bringing me to a "thin place" — a place where I am closest to God, a place I find my purpose, a place where I realize what God created me to do for Him during the life He gave me on earth. I committed to surrender my will to God, to follow Him where He wants me to go, and do whatever He asks me to do. And with the Father's help, I will.
I came away from the retreat renewed in my focus on life and stronger in my belief in God, my brothers in Christ, and in myself. Gratefully, I can now confidently ask, "Where do I go now, Lord? What do you want me to do?" And in asking, I can journey forward, confident that He will lead me in the path I need to travel.