A little speck on a little speck of the map. As the sun started sinking that Friday, cars trickled into the gravel parking lot. People soon formed a wide circle of conversation, with frisbees shooting through the buggy, early evening air. Some carried their stuff to the bunk houses, and claimed a place to lay their head for the night. As shadows began to lengthen and bugs began to bite, everyone soon found their way inside to find seats, eat snacks, continue talking, and pay for the weekend: Fall Retreat 2015.
Tom Brown, from Vintage Faith in Wichita, shared a short series called “Super Chunky Love” with a bunch of college students from Manhattan, Wichita, and Kansas City, KS, and Omaha and Lincoln, NE. It was a series about sex, love, and marriage, beauty and glory, brokenness and sin. It was a hard-hitting message – particularly for our generation – about what influences, or stories, we are allowing to write the script of our lives. For some, it is materialism, the belief that only material things exist. For others, it is romanticism, where the emphasis is based on emotions; or relativism, the idea that all points of view are equally valid. Dualism can also influence some of us, the belief that what matters most is the spiritual, and that the physical is unclean or irrelevant. Tom would argue that all of these “stories” fall short, but that the Gospel story, in four parts – creation, fall, redemption, and consummation – is big enough to cover everything.
If the Gospel story is big enough to cover everything, then it is big enough to cover our love lives. The love of God is active and aggressive. As Tom says, “Love seeks out and goes after those who don’t feel beautiful, to cover shame and embrace imperfection.” Four of his main points were as follows:
- Love comes before beauty,
- Compassion covers shame,
- Grace blots out sin, and
- Commitment embraces imperfection.
These points, as well as a message about the heartbreaking damage of pornography, encouraged us to love the people around us more intensely and to be more honest about our lives. We learned a lot from the messages, and from spending time with the people around us. Kara Tessalee said that she wanted to be “more transparent, especially with my family of believers.” Wyatt Osborn learned “that Jesus wants everything from us, not just the spiritual side of our [lives].” Sarita Retiz, along with many others, especially enjoyed the music. As we packed up, cleaned up, and cleared out on Saturday afternoon, we headed back to our “normal” lives, hopefully with a little different perspective to bring to the world around us.