I'm sure I thought "I really don't have time for this," at least 50 times before the weekend women's retreat. I mean, two whole days away from my endless list of things-I-need-to-do doesn't make much sense. But I'd already paid my money and I knew from past experience that it would be a rewarding time. And it was.
I've been going on women's retreats off and on since the days when I was nursing babies and could hardly make it through a weekend without my boobs exploding. It seems like each time I've taken the time and scraped together the money, there has been something special that I've taken home. Maybe it was just the need to laugh with a bunch of girls, or a deep spiritual hunger for a word from God, but retreats have been a great source of encouragement to me over the years. It's good to have some time out from the everyday responsibilites to enjoy being with other women, and spend time with the Lord.
The theme of the weekend was "Masquerade: Unveiled to Reveal God's Glory." One of our own women, Barbara Jackson, was our teacher, and she led us to think about the masks we wear that prevent us from going deeper in our relationship with God. And with each other.
I've got some good masks: the "I'm Fine" mask, the "Everything's Under Control" mask, the "I'm Really Busy" mask and the "I'm Really Spiritual" mask all keep people at arm's length so I can just go about my business. Masks are useful: they keep others from seeing the real me and protect me from the rejection I fear would happen if they knew what was behind them.
But it's lonely behind a mask. True, you don't risk getting hurt when you wear one, but you also don't risk finding friendships that go beyond "Hi, how ya doin? Fine, just fine!" And you miss out on truly reflecting His glory by letting others see who you are and where you've come from.
It's not always a pretty sight when you let down your guard. But when we are real with each other and real with our God, well, that's when things get interesting. It gives Him the chance to work in ways that we never thought possible. It gives friendships a chance to blossom. And it gives us a chance to step out in faith to believe that God can take what is behind the mask and make something beautiful out of it.
But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. II Cor 3:16-18