The wonderful thing about the Gospel is that God accepts us into his Kingdom just as we are; he is not waiting for a perfect version of us. Spending time in the woods recently with God in intentional community revealed unto us (the Fellows) a greater understanding of spiritual disciplines, the Gospel, and relationships—with God, self, and others. The full experience was one of continued and explosive growth and the principles learned are ones that can be practiced throughout the future. 

We practiced multiple spiritual disciplines on the retreat, one of them being silence and solitude. Each morning, as we restrained ourselves from talking to our friends, we learned to exhibit a quiet strength of self-control. This helped us to express our desires more fully to God while resting in his creation around us. In addition to the shorter times early in the morning spent ‘alone,’ we had the opportunity to participate in an extended solitude. I went into this experience not fully resting my time in God’s hand. It would have been greatly beneficial had I allowed God to have control over the time and move in me as he saw fit. In essence, then, I walked out of the woods feeling majorly disappointed in myself—for not accomplishing what I believed I could have, for not listening enough to God’s voice, for ‘wasting’ my time. God had his plan, though, and he used my experience for good. As we spent much time discussing and processing solitude, I was reminded of a wonderful truth that resonates in my heart: I do not have to be perfect to approach my God. He sees my brokenness and calls me his son. I was trying to fix myself before I came to him, but that is not how it works. Yes, he wants me to live in holiness. My efforts do not hand me extra brownie points. I am saved by faith through his grace, and my efforts towards holiness are so that I might walk more intimately with him. 

Another significant moment was partaking of the Eucharist. We spent time on a mountain enjoying God’s beautiful sunset, we worshipped him through song and prayer, and we participated in communion—the eating of bread and wine (though, I believe we drank grape juice). A truer and deeper understanding of the body of Christ, as he lived and now as he sits in glory, reflects unto us what community looks like. This was an overwhelmingly emotional experience. As we took turns participating in the breaking of bread and drinking of wine, we prayed, cried, and worshipped our almighty God. God moved in the hearts of the students. We gathered around one another in prayer and love for our brothers and sisters whose hearts were breaking. I myself could not contain myself from breaking down, yet my brothers grouped around me and showed me the love of Christ. After communion, I could not contain myself from praising my God for how awesome he is and how he defeated death. I look forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, in which Christ will once again partake in communion, and all of us saints with him.  

The Sacred Rhythms retreat flew by. I wish we could have spent more time in the woods. That thought itself is teaching me that I do not have to stop there. Our disciplines are not limited to the woods. 

We are learning how to take and apply the spiritual disciplines to our current and future lives. The schedule of life at Impact 360 Institute is conducive to establishing a ‘rule of life’, but only if we put in the effort. Also, it does not stop with Impact 360. Spiritual disciplines are practices we can and will take into life beyond Impact 360 to continue growing closer to our Heavenly Father. 

by Elijah Renz