By Elle Prosterman, Class of 2019
This past Monday, I sat in my office with the familiar post-retreat feeling—a unique mixture of encouragement, refreshment, and exhaustion. This feeling has become familiar as the beginning of the Fellows year is infamous for a deluge of retreats. Those who are familiar with the retreat-heavy beginning of the Fellows year have commented on how difficult it must be to pack up and venture elsewhere after having just moved to a new city. However, it is with gladness that my fellow Fellows and I have embarked on these adventures four times since being in Charlottesville. Each retreat stands as a picture of one of the most precious gifts that this year offers: a strong community of people, all uniquely made in the image of God. By enjoying each other’s company and the sweetness of community grounded in Him, we are able to engage more deeply with the God who brought us together.
Our orientation retreat allowed for hours in the car where we had the privilege of asking each other questions, seeking to know each other better. We rock climbed, whitewater rafted, cooked for each other, swam in the lake, and worshipped together. Our testimony retreat invited us to patiently and lovingly bear one another’s stories, struggles, and victories. We mourned and rejoiced with and for one another while acknowledging God as our Creator and Sustainer. We realized the glory of serving alongside each other while on Modgnik, the middle school retreat. We served and loved middle schoolers either by sitting with and listening to them or sending them down the ropes course or water slide. Most recently, we learned more about God in the midst of knowing our own stories while on Trinity’s young adult retreat.
Each weekend retreat has given us the space to venture deeper into our own spiritual lives while also sharing in the ability that God gives us to enjoy His creation. We grow in our ability to rest, whether that be through a boat ride on the lake, a game of cards, or ultimate frisbee. We learn more about each other and treasure each other’s presence while sharing a meal or an impromptu dance party. Each of these experiences points to the God that longs to embrace us, walk with us, dine with us, and dance with us. Our time together is where we practice the lessons we are learning in this year as well. We see what it means to long for the new creation about which Bill Wilder is teaching us. We seek opportunities to cultivate gratitude as we have learned from Wade Bradshaw. We offer hospitality to each other as we have learned from the example of our host families, mentors, and job hosts.
As we were reading Psalm 95 during our most recent roundtable discussion, I realized that what these retreats are teaching us parallel David’s call in the Psalm:
“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
And a great king above all gods.
In His hand are the depths of the earth;
The heights of the mountains are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.”
We gratefully sing a joyful noise to the Lord in our conversations, laughter, tears, and stories shared.
We do so while acknowledging the work that our great God has done and will do in our lives.
We remind each other that we are even more beautifully crafted than the creation that causes us to stand in awe.
May this retreat posture remain throughout our year, and may we carry these lessons throughout our lives as well.