I had a difficult time getting to the retreat center. I don't like driving alone, especially in the dark and in the rain yet with the help of a solid hour of U2 songs and my map application on my iPhone, I made it there without any big problems. My problems arrived once I entered the retreat center.
It's a simple thing. Finding a place to park. I could not. I'm not one to utter prayers for parking spaces. There were a few by the registration area that were 10 minute spots but they were full. Finally, my 4th drive around the whole place, a few of these interim spots were vacant and I went inside to register. I was still not too happy, and even less happy when they informed me of where I was staying and the parking lot to that area. I had circled around that very spot several times. I knew with certainty there were NO SPOTS in that location. I mentioned that. The attendant feigned empathy but cheerfully told me I could park elsewhere. I trudged out. I KNEW there were so few spots open that were remotely near this area. I wanted to just flee. To run home but it's over an hour away, and I was here. I needed to stay.
I found a spot. Not incredibly near my room but I was grudgingly thankful and made my way straight to the dining hall, lest I miss dinner. Keep in mind I'd never been here and had never been on a retreat with this church. (my church) I enter and look out on a sea of people, but none I recognized. There was no attendant to assist me. I stood for nearly a minute, surveying the groups of diners and finally, feeling foolish just standing there but not knowing what to do, I walked out. The tears began to fall and I so wanted to leave and go home; but knew I could not. I could hear the waves of the ocean and moved down the path in that direction, tears falling, thinking of my inability to be bold and confident. I then heard my name being called. It was my roommate, wondering where I was going. I foolishly felt rescued, and journeyed back with her, grateful it was dark as I wiped away my tears. Turns out that they were situated at tables in a corner so I could not see them when I arrived yet they could see me as I walked down the path away from the dining area. I was happy to be with the group but still couldn't shake this feeling of not being wanted and not fitting in, even though I truly was surrounded by friends.
Dinner was fine. My roomie and I missed the icebreaker portion of the evening since we were hiking a vast distance to my van and back to get my luggage. The room and bed were quite small but i have a deep love for wood and older buildings. I loved the large windows, and just the charm that this place had. I was happy with the accommodations. The only thing I sorely missed was internet access but even that was fine since I had my phone.
Worship began and it was beautifully led. I wanted to take photos. I wasn't asked to, but I wanted to and one made me feel that my photos were distracting. It hurt. So I did what any overly sensitive, people-pleasing person would do: I went and sulked at the back of the room, thankful for darkness, as I once again cried. And then just got defensive. So nothing would reach me; I allowed nothing in. The songs were moving, yet I found them to be too emotional; too touchy feel-y. They were bonding and agreeing and I could not bond and agree. If anything, my posture, attitude, outlook, was all of defiance. I am NOT one of them. I was not part of this group. I was either the photographer and therefore not expected to be "in" or I was just not "womanly" enough to be "in". I realized I did not want to be womanly enough to fit in.
And then it hit me. I get upset because I feel isolated; feel "out" and yet I am the first one to bring about the separation. My declaration of I Am Different and I am Not Like You nor do I wish to be. Then others respond accordingly and I lament the fact that I am not included and don't fit in.
It makes no sense, does it?
So..... you think that by this realization things would be great the rest of the retreat for me, but nope. I am stubborn. I do not learn lessons quickly. I'm at this point still in self pity over the fact I'm not taking pictures, sill enjoying the bitterness so I don't allow the songs to touch me. As I said before, I critically deem them as too emotional, women-oriented. The worship leader prays, a powerful prayer that would touch me if I let it. I don't let it. Then the speaker is introduced in such a way that it again turns me off. It was such a stern: She coms with great credentials but her real credential is she was called by God to speak to us. So you better listen or else" was what I heard. Of course, no command was actually given but it was my interpretation.
So, Julia began to speak. I immediately admitted she was good but she'd shown a video of a little girl, a girly-girl with the words "My daughter...... I love you.... you are the apple of my eye....... blah blah blah" and again, I just shut down. It was too emotional. Too reminiscent of Captivating. I expected the speaker to be the same way.
I was wrong, but it still took me a while to give her my full attention. I knew instantly she was a very good speaker. I knew instantly that had a heart for God. Yet I still struggled not to listen. A friend of mine not at the retreat sent me a message: How's the retreat? How's the speaker?
Too Cute. Too Skinny. Too Perfect.... was my reply. Indeed, she was. I really thought her and I had nothing in common. Knowing where she lived concluded she was quite well off financially. She seemed to have a perfect life. She was engaging, fun and beautiful. So skinny. A leader in her church and community. Well liked. I thought she had no hardships. I would later find out I was wrong; she'd endured many hardships, yet that was never what her message was about.
Long story short, there were so many little things said that echoed my own private questions. I was reading a book that paralleled much of what she was saying, so even though I might somehow be able to discount what she was saying about a God that loves us and is so very close to us, I could not discount this from this book, Counterfeit Gods, written by a favorite author. So I began to take better notice, and reflected back to all the things Julia had said that I tried so hard not to listen to, which enabled me to begin listening more intently to the rest of the night. It was good. Later, in discussion with a group, it came out that Julia (the speaker) and I knew quite a few of the same people. I have friends very involved in BSF ands she taught at the same church I had attended for years in College and after I married. It was fun making those connections and I was sad I had "shunned" her in my mind the whole trip. It turned out that though she was Too Skinny, Too Cute and Too Perfect, she still seemed to enjoy chatting even with people like me.