Don't you just love it when something so completely exceeds your expectations? I had the privilege of attending a conference at my church last weekend - very aptly called "Immerse". The goal of the weekend was to become better acquainted with the person and work of the Holy Spirit. It was unlike any conference I'd ever attended - most seem to be designed to pack as much information as possible into the allotted time, with hardly a pause in the schedule for a bathroom break, let alone chances to actually think about and absorb, or Heaven forbid discuss with other attendees, what's been taught and experienced. But at this conference, though we followed a loose itinerary, there was time. Sessions included worship, teaching and ministry times that were unhindered by time constraints. Breaks were frequent and unrushed. Meals were delicious, nutritious and relaxed. There was time to breathe, time to share thoughts and questions and stories, time to let it all soak in.
I approached the weekend with mixed feelings. I was looking forward to extended times of praise and worship, anticipating meeting interesting people and deepening current friendships. I was prepared to encounter new ideas and add to my knowledge of the Holy Spirit. I could hardly wait for the refreshing and encouragement that was to come! And, since honesty is the best policy, I was also relishing the thought of a weekend to myself, free of family responsibilities. (Thanks, Honey!)
But I also had some fears. I was a little afraid of what God might show me, and how He might go about it. As an imperfect human being, there's always some sin to battle with, some thought or attitude or habit that needs to be addressed and dealt with, and hopefully eliminated. Our very first exercise of the weekend was to answer four questions, one of which was "What do I expect?". I wrote down the very first thing that came to mind - I expected to be scolded. I knew there was sin in my life, and I expected God to confront it and make me face up to it. In fact, I was kind of hoping He would, since I've made very little progress in overcoming this particular issue in spite of continued praying and surrendering, and at times it just seemed to be getting worse - I didn't even want to let it go. But I came to this weekend knowing, hoping it was time to get rid of it for good. And for some reason, I was expecting God to perform the operation without anaesthetic, maybe even hoping He would, since I was feeling such guilt over my on-going weakness. I guess I felt I deserved whatever He chose to dish out.
As I look back on my experience from this side of it, I just have to shake my head and smile. Throughout the entire weekend, again and again and again, God poured out heaping helpings of lavish love over me. I was astonished by the gentle tenderness of His dealings with me. I had never considered before that God could feel tenderly towards me - it's not a word I had ever associated with His love. It was so sweet and precious and intimate; a whole new level of relationship. And in the midst of it, it was suddenly easy to let go of what I'd been so stubbornly holding onto; His kindness really does lead us to repentance! (Romans 2:4)
And that's all I have to say about that :)