The bus was filled with faces and voices I have never seen nor heard before. I breathed heavily as I stepped in and walked past the people. I lightly brushed against everyone on my way with a canvas backpack slung fashionably over my shoulder and plastic full of chips on my hand. I took the seat by the window in the middle part of the bus. An affable girl in her early twenties sat right next to me. Her name was “Kim”. For minutes we both uttered our hellos and introduced ourselves in short sentences: “Hi, I’m Louise. 21, from Cavite, a Marketing Associate for a real estate firm. First timer. Nice to meet you.” Soon the awkward talk became a getting-to-know conversation.
It wasn’t long before Kim and I shared shallow waves of laughter. This is going to be a long weekend, I thought. When everyone has quiet down, I held onto my jacket and closed my eyes. Kim, I and the rest were headed to the place where a new life’s journey began: La Union.
It was lunchtime when we took a stop at a restaurant by the road and ate our meals. We were arranged by groupings and once again exchanged dialogues with unnamed faces. We were told to prepare for a cheer dance that’ll be part of the activities later that evening. Again, we introduced ourselves to one another in short sentences: “Hi, I’m Louise. 21, from Cavite, a Marketing Associate for a real estate firm. First timer. Nice to meet you.“
The long weekend is just starting, my mind rattled while a wide smile drew forcibly across my face. The rest of the weekend was history.
The theme of the Single’s Retreat was Ground Zero. “Ground zero” implies having everything taken away from our hands. While we are left with a blank slate, we are to start over again. This could come as negative for most, but for the people who raised their hands and sung their hearts out to the skies that fateful weekend, this “clearing out” is the beginning of a new hope. I knew the event was a spiritual retreat, but clearly, I didn’t understand what I signed up for. The team activities turned to bonding, the forced introductions developed into late-night sharings, and the once unnamed faces became friends with significant life stories.
Little did I know that this event and the people in it would be a big part of a new chapter in my life: a lifetime adventure with Christ. What I thought to be an odd community became the first place where rest has triumphantly found me. This hateful mindset towards God had been replaced later on by an acceptance of a great love different than any other.
And yes, I did remember why I signed up for this spiritual retreat – I was seeking ways to get my walls down that I might connect more effectively to people. And it came to pass. Ground Zero retreat opened my eyes to what I was missing out on. It was difficult to swallow the truth unfolded to me that night, but the willingness to surrender to Him was affirmed by the tugs in my chest and the rush of the blood in my veins. That moment changed me. The preaching seemed as if it did not cut deep into my heart at first, but it did. I have learned my value as a woman of God.
A year and a half have already passed and different seasons followed my teammates and me. One of us got married, one got recently engaged, one got a girlfriend, one worked overseas and as for me and the rest, we grew in Christ at the season of singlehood. Singlehood, the season we were once all in.
I never really cared about my status until that day. I realized, before I enter into the season of relationships, I must first embrace this time of singleness. Beloved, this is for you, too. Among the points from the first session, here are the highlights I’d like to share with you:
1. The Father is the Lord over your storms.
I have always been looking for something tangible to comfort me and give me hope. However, the source of the things I ultimately need is not the world. When we let God deal with our hearts accordingly, we discover that our security is in Him. The seas will get rough, but if your ship is anchored to a firm foundation, you will stand tall. Even if the waves get high and you feel as if we won’t make it, our God grants you the hope that tells you that you can overcome and you will overcome.
The fisherman throws the anchor to the sea so that the boat will not be shaken. Anchor hooks to something stronger than the boat, that it might be stabilized when storms pass. Divers follow this anchor as they know it is attached to a boat. Just like the boat, when your hope is anchored to a strong rock, you are not easily shaken despite the storm, and people can follow your anchor so that they may not go astray in the vastness of the sea.
God is the captain. He operates the ship you cooperate. The stirring wheel is His and the direction is His. When God says ‘scrub the deck’, grab your cleaning tools and start scrubbing! When He says ‘at ease’, let go of everything and do as you’re told.
What is The Captain telling you to do today? Did you cheerfully say, ‘aye, aye captain’ in response?
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf… Hebrews 6:19-20
2. The Father knows His children by name.
Everyone has different struggles, and everyone cries for mercy. We cannot judge people regardless of their situation or our situation. Your storms are not larger than others, nor theirs than yours. Everyone gets the same hope, the same grace, and the same love from God. It is not about who needs “more” hope than the other. It’s not about who suffers more. It’s about God working in and through you in the face of all these things.
God knows you by name because He is a personal God. He calls you closer to Him. And He is also the God who calls your brothers and sisters. Remind them that God is the source of hope because:
(1) He is sovereign and powerful. Even in our moments of fear, He desires to bless us because He wants to be a Father to us. He displays His love for us through these circumstances where we find ourselves helpless. Let it happen the way He wills.
(2) We should hope in Him because God intends to keep His covenant with us. He is true to His word and to His promises. When He says the storm will come to pass, consider it finished! The storm has passed. God gives you rest. (Matthew 11:28, Hebrews 4:1) Before, during and after the chaos, you have by your side a God who has shown to you His great faithfulness.
(3) Lastly, hope is found in God because God does not change. He is immutable and consistent. He is the same God who delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, who saved Daniel from the lions and who sacrificed His only Son, Jesus, so we may live. His love, grace, and truth are upon us even when we don’t deserve it, and nothing will separate us from His gifts. You can declare His renewal in you every day. (1 Peter 1:3)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Hebrews 13:8
3. Hope may be perceived around people but it cannot be anchored to people.
Hope dwells in our hearts, as Christ dwells in our hearts. By this, we are rooted and established in love. (Ephesians 3:14-20) Then, by this also, we possess the hope and encouragement to share with our brothers and sister about this hope. Take note, however, that we are not the hope they need. We are merely the messengers.
As children of God, walk in His light. Don’t lead others to your glory, but to His glory. Lead by God’s example and one day, those people who see hope in you will crave the God you serve. And they will find God in their hearts, too. In the same way that our church leaders are not our hope, our wealth is not our hope, our abilities are not our hope, most especially our husband or wife is not our hope, then we, who are instruments of God, are not the hope they need. Unlike God, people are weak. We will fail to keep our word at some points. Humans are fickle-minded, and even we are the instruments, we do not have all the answers they need. SO WE ARE NOT THE HOPE. WE ARE NOT THE FIRM FOUNDATION THEY SHOULD BE ANCHORED TO.
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? Romans 8:23
Hope starts to manifest when you acknowledge the One that gives you the living hope. When storms steal away the hope in you, do not cling to relationships for security but lean on God to overcome the chaos. Give all the glory to Him who gives you the strength to stand. Be the salt and light. Before we could fully understand how wonderful the gift of marriage and relationship is, we must see first how great it is to have God as our brother, husband, friend and Father. This is Ground Zero, the place to let go of everything you dearly held and start anew with God.