It was time for me to get away. I had been overly busy. The daily commute through Houston traffic was wearing on me. I’d pushed through and worked hard to finish a major project. Fortunately, while looking at my schedule a few months earlier I’d anticipated what might happen and planned a retreat at a spiritual renewal center. I thought it would be a time to rest and recover. What I didn’t anticipate was what I’d be asked to do on the retreat and the impact it would have.
I arrived in the late afternoon. After settling in to my room I met with the retreat director fully expecting him to tell me to rest through the evening and plan to start in the morning. Instead he gave me an assignment to be completed before dinner. I was to review my personal spiritual history and draw a spiritual lifeline. Perhaps you’ve done something similar. You start with birth and identify the spiritual peaks and valleys in your life then draw it out on a line chart. When you’re finished it looks something like a heartbeat monitor or the chart of rising and falling stock prices. I didn’t think that part would be too difficult, but he saved the worst for last.
“After dinner,” he said, “we’ll get the conference participants together as a group and everyone will tell their story.” An introvert's worst nightmare. Where’s the door?
Like a good Romper Room do-bee, I developed my timeline and when the time came I told my story. Sharing the peaks, the marker moments of my life, was easy. I guess there’s a little brag and swag in the most humble of us. Sharing the dark moments, that was not as easy, but at least these were folks I'd probably never see again. Anonymity made disclosure more berable. The real surprise came later.
Reflecting back later that evening I realized that many of the marker moments (the peaks) in my life followed some of the toughest and most painful times (the valleys). I came away with a fresh appreciation for the grace and goodness of God.
Later that evening I discovered that taking time out to reflect and remember is something God tried to build into the rhythm of our lives. I read the story of Joshua leading the Hebrews into the Promised Land. The exodus was a great moment in Hebrew history and as soon as they crossed the Red Sea they celebrated. Then followed forty tough years of wandering in the wilderness. When they finally crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land God instructed them to stop, take time to build a stone monument and commemorate the event. He wanted them to be able to come back to the memorial and tell the story to their children and their children’s children of what God did for them. (I found it more than coincidental that this great moment followed a tough time in their history just as many of my marker moments followed some of my tough times.)
Apparently, remembering the marker moments isn’t just a good personal exercise; it’s an important corporate experience as well.
This October UBA will celebrate 175 years as an association of churches. On Sunday night, October 11, at 7:00 pm at Houston's First Baptist Church, we will gather to celebrate. We will look back on many of the marker moments in our history—and there are some great moments—and look ahead to the challenges of reaching our growing, increasingly diverse metroplex with the gospel of Christ! The HBU choir will be there (did you know UBA started HBU?). There will be video highlights of our history. (Thanks to Second Baptist's media team for helping put that together.) Special guest speakers will take us back in time and carry us forward into the future. Mark it on your calendar. It all begins at 7:00 pm, Sunday night, October 11, in the worship center at Houston’s First Baptist Church (at the intersection of I-10 and the West Loop). And you’re invited! I hope we will see you there.