“So long as there are men and women, Christ walks the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls on you, speaks to you, and makes demands on you. That is the most serious and most blessed thing about the Advent message. Christ lives in the shape of the person in our midst.”
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Mystery of Holy Night, p. 11)
I love Advent. I love candles and children singing and handmade presents and hot chocolate and special prayers and rituals. But I’m also an introvert who thrives on solitude and slowness, so the shopping and parties and events of this season stretch me to my limit. I often come to Christmas day – and the beautiful season of joy that follows – limping and weary and longing for a break.
Which is why I begin to look forward to the women’s retreat every year around this time. It’s so well timed to refresh me after the holidays, to interrupt the mid-winter doldrums (which, in my house, includes stir-crazy kids trapped indoors and behaving like caged wild animals), and to strengthen and inspire me for the year that lies ahead. But wait, I know what you’re thinking – I said I’m an introvert, right? And the women’s retreat involves a LOT of women, many of whom I don’t know, right? And this year’s theme is something terrifying like “corporate spiritual disciplines,” right?
Right. Yes. I’m an introvert who loves the women’s retreat and can’t wait to dive into corporate spiritual disciplines. Why?
First of all, I am careful to fight off FOMO to carve out a few hours of contemplative solitude over the retreat weekend every year. I know I need this time in order to fully engage with the retreat experience and to go home replenished rather than depleted. If you’re introverted, I highly recommend you consider doing the same, and I’d be happy to share what works for me.
But more importantly, though I am introverted by temperament, I also firmly believe that I am created in the image of a triune, relational God. I am made for community, and I cannot experience the fullness of the life Jesus offers me apart from it. I have been profoundly impacted by the vulnerability and wisdom of our Resto Women community, and my faith is strengthened, challenged, and deepened by immersing myself in it every year at the women’s retreat. There is nothing like a weekend set aside to pray, sing, laugh, cry, learn, and seek God with a group of honest, messy, and unique women. I love it.
This year, we’ll be digging into corporate spiritual disciplines like worship, confession, prayer, and celebration. Every introverted cell in my body resists this topic, mainly because of the word “corprorate.” I’m quite content to pursue (or lazily not pursue, as is more often the case) spiritual disciplines on my own without those pesky other people all up in my spiritual grill. But it’s my resistance to the topic that also most excites me, because I have experienced how God loves to surprise me with joy and healing in the places that feel most risky, especially in community.
So come, dive in with me to a scary topic with a bunch of people we don’t really know. Take a risk. Consider the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer above, and trust that you will, indeed, encounter Christ in “the shape of the person in our midst.”