Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Grace or Influenza?

Usually, I am just stubborn. But some days I am not sure if I am stubborn or if I am holding on tightly to the Lord's grace despite the odds.

This weekend Ryan and I had planned to be leaders of a youth retreat with some of our good friends. The youth group was not our own, but my dear friend Andy asked us to be a part of the planning and presentations for the weekend. He wanted to give the kids a good example of married vocation, and apparently they don't have very many women youth leaders for this group, so having me and one of my closest friends, Aislinn, there was pretty important.

We began planning the retreat last fall, setting up the weekend agenda from scratch, creating a theme about Heros, and basing our talks and discussions on each team leader's personal and spiritual strengths. Ryan and I were slotted for the marriage/chastity talk from the beginning - kind of a no-brainer, as we were the only married couple to be there.

Wednesday before the retreat I began to feel tired and kind of sick. I took work off on Thursday, tried to sleep in and just get enough rest to kick my little cold. Friday morning at work I didn't feel 100%, but I just knew that spiritual attack right before a retreat is all part of the deal. I made it through the first evening of the retreat, however, each hour I kept feeling worse instead of better. At one point I wondered why I didn't just stay at home instead, watching movies and not sitting on hard, cold floor with kids I just met and would probably never see again. Why did it even matter for me to be there?

Friday night I slept for 2 hours and I knew I was in trouble when I woke up. I felt miserable, barely able to focus, and totally unsure how I would last out the day until our talk at 3pm. I also felt wretched because I was submitting all those kids to whatever illness I brought along with me - and to what purpose? My own pride? Or was God asking me to suffer through for a greater good? How would all of those parents feel when their kids brought home sickness from a youth leader? Again, I wasn't sure what I was doing there, or whether I should stay or go.

I decided to make the best of an awful situation and just pray unceasingly. I made a commitment to the retreat and I would stick it out until my work was done. My only option was to offer up my suffering and desperately ask God to heal me of my sickness. It was a humility for me to lay down my defenses and depend totally on the Lord. As I've mentioned before, I am usually just stubborn.

Three o'clock came, the hour of mercy, and God gave me the strength to witness with my husband to the teens. He even gave me a little extra energy that afternoon as I talked with the girls on the retreat about marriage, sex, and guys. It wasn't a healing from my sickness, but it was a grace to be able to minister to the teens. I was able to give back a little bit of the gift I had received from other youth ministers when I was a teen, at that very same retreat center. The gift had come full circle. My biggest grace of the day, however, was a peace of mind about the weekend. There was a reason I was at the retreat, attempting to give an example of womanhood to the girls striving toward their own womanhood.

The next morning I found out that I am suffering from influenza. It's kind of funny, the double-edged sword of the whole event. I decided to go and keep my commitment, and possibly speak a word that God will use in one of those teens' hearts. At the same time, my being there exposed everyone to the flu. I just hope that I was a vessel for God's grace and not influenza at the retreat!

2 comments:

Jenny said...

Ashley,
Welcome to the blogosphere! I'm curious to hear details on how the election year plays out on ND's campus too... I am also a convert to this world of online musings via discovering Et Tu, and I've "met" more cool Catholic women than I ever imagined existed, it's awesome!

Meta said...

glad to hear it went well--way to stick it out! rest well.