The weekend of the retreat arrived. For weeks I had been mentally preparing for this two day event; psyching myself up for the battle I knew would come, talking myself into the courage I knew I would need. Now the day of reckoning had come. Would my own resolve be enough, or would I walk away with my tail between my legs once again? Only time would tell, but I was more determined than ever to be free from this bondage of grief and guilt.
Sharon and I drove the two hours north along tree-lined highways, which
turned into paved country streets. Further and further from civilization we went
on these unfamiliar, narrow side roads, until at last we pulled into the
neatly tucked away campground of the retreat center. The setting was somewhat
rustic. Set on the edge of a lake, the cabins were clean and pleasant,
with two bedrooms on the main floor, a living area, a bathroom, and a large
loft area which could sleep as many people as you could line up on the floor
like fallen timber. Sharon and I chose to go to the loft, mostly because
we were the "late-comers" to our cabin. The other 4 girls we
shared our temporary home with had snatched up the main floor bedrooms. It was
good, though, as it offered me the privacy I needed and wanted. As we settled
in and prepared for the evening meeting, my nerves came to attention.
Suddenly, the realization of what I had signed up for came to the forefront of
my awareness, and I began to feel the fear once again. I knew it wasn't
going to be easy, but I had to push through. It was "do-or-die" time.
The time for the first session had come, so Sharon and I walked over to the
meeting hall from our cabin. Already dark, it was a little treacherous trying
to find the path to walk on; there were even little foot bridges crossing tiny
rivulets to be traversed. Together, walking hand-in-hand at times, we
found our way to the hall. It was strange how the walk to the meeting mirrored
my life journey. I was in the dark, struggling to find the path to freedom.
Bridges of fear and doubt needed to be crossed to get to the final healing, and
without the help of a friend walking beside me and holding me up at times, I
probably wouldn't make it.
The meeting began with introductions of the leaders, then silly skits to
lighten the atmosphere and help everyone relax, followed by songs sung in
unison, and a teaching from the Word of God. With every song, and with every word
of preaching, I became more anxious. Escape seemed like a viable option, but
the memory of the previous retreat and my feelings of disappointment and regret
for not having acted then, held me in my place. Having been to retreats before,
I knew the agenda; I knew prayer time was next on the docket, and I began to
inwardly crawl. I could feel myself tightening and withdrawing, my arms
wrapping around myself in symbolic protection and shelter; the urge to fold
into a fetal position strong. I had to stay focused on the prize- my freedom-
or defeat would come again.
Sharon knew I was inwardly battling, so she asked if I wanted to go forward
for prayer with her. With the timidity that comes from fear, I slowly nodded,
no. Knowing the decision and the action of that first important step had to be
mine and mine alone, she left me sitting there by myself as she went forward for prayer. I was happy for her, but kicking myself. I was blowing it!
The fear was winning again! Suddenly, in that moment, the balanced scales
of my emotions tipped strongly in favor of freedom. The fear of the
future, the fear of who I would become once I was free, the fear of death, the
fear of everything, was over-ridden by the pain and agony of staying the
way I was. When the pain of change is LESS than the pain of remaining the same,
we change. I pushed myself up out of my chair with renewed determination, and
walked purposefully toward the front. I had made it. I was standing at the door to my cave, ready to be released from its hold on me. Then I faced the final challenge.