this month, I attended a retreat as a part of the work I do at Oxford College.
We gathered as a group of director-level employees to think about our goals for
the year ahead and how we might collaborate instead of falling into the silos
where we too-often find ourselves when the year gets busy, stressful, and sometimes
out of control.
I’ve attended this retreat for four years, so I knew what to expect. I knew that it was usually interesting, fun and helpful. It only required a one-hour drive from home and one night away. It wasn’t something to dread, yet I was dreading it. I think there were a couple of reasons for this, one of which I’ll come back to later.
Have you ever been dreading something even though deep down you knew it was good for you? Or dreading something that you knew would end up being fun? And, perhaps, because of this you go into it with a less-than-positive attitude. I hate to admit it, but that was me two weeks ago.
I arrived at the retreat, put my stuff in a bedroom and then kept to myself more than usual for much of the morning. I participated in the activities but only to the extent that I needed to. I thought I was hiding my negativity well until midday when a colleague asked me if everything was okay. Apparently I’m not as good at hiding things as I think I am. My spouse has known this about me for quite some time now.
Sometimes we have moments like this in our lives, and we need to know that what we’re feeling is what we’re feeling. It’s important to acknowledge it and examine where those feelings are coming from. It’s also important to recognize when the feelings are keeping us from being in community with people who care about us and want good things for us, which was the case for me at this retreat.
The closing activity of the retreat was led by a colleague with whom I had recently been in a disagreement over something petty. In fact, that was a major part of my own reticence about the retreat in the first place. It was that activity, though, that opened my eyes to the ways in which I had blinded myself to the goodness around me.
It was a beautiful activity that helped each of us think about one word that would guide our professional or personal life in the year ahead. Most of my friends in the room chose a word that would be their mantra for their work. I chose the word “enough” and talked about how I wanted it to help guide my parenting; how I want my five-year-old to know that he is enough just as he is. We were then given the tools to metal stamp our word onto a piece of copper. Some folks turned their metal into a bracelet. I’m using mine as a bookmark throughout the year in front of me.
The Christian faith is a story about a God who loves us as we are and meets us where we are. It’s also a story that asks us to do this for others we meet along the way, and not just those we like, or who look like us, or who treat us kindly. Fortunately for me, my colleagues and friends met me where I was during the recent retreat. They saw me as enough, and I pray that their example will also help lead me to do the same in the new school year ahead.
The Rev. Dr. Lyn Pace is the college chaplain at Oxford College of Emory University.