Thoughts from the Winter Women’s Retreat

I don’t know about you, but for me Friday means the last day of the work week and a catered lunch at the office. It is the glorious door mat to Saturday! Friday, December 2, started like many others. I hit snooze three times before dragging myself out of bed that morning. Wiping the crust out of my eyes, the daily routine began and before I knew it, I was on the interstate rushing to work, yelling at the driver in front of me. Each sharp word a type of prisoner being released from the dungeon of my darkened heart which hadn’t yet been washed by the water of the word that morning. Work began and ended. I typed in the address to the retreat location and began driving while simultaneously asking God to do something in my heart that weekend that I obviously couldn’t do for myself. Guilt and Shame rode passenger with their seatbelt fashioned, making sure I didn’t remember the beautiful devotional written specifically to prime my heart. “You only read two to three pages, Gina”, I heard them say. “You’re a mess”, they muttered. And yet, as the sun dipped behind the trees, I emerged from my car, took a deep breath, grabbed my bags, and agreed with them. I turned and proceeded to walk by faith toward the group of women who probably walked away from their cars and vans that evening leaving the same passengers behind as well.

Registration and dinner awaited us. Yet, I was clueless as to how full I would soon become from a better food. It was my first time sitting beneath the teaching of my pastor’s wife, Jackey. Although familiarity attempted to invade the room like a thick fog, God’s word being heralded from the pulpit charged forward with greater force and mass:

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:14)

“What is controlling you?”, she asked the group of hungry-hearted women. It was as if the Holy Spirit presented a home video of the previous three months shot from my heart’s vantage point for me to review and consider. Using God’s word as a magnifying glass, hovering over every image, I could only conclude that what had been controlling me over those last three months was self. Strong, healthy, alive and well, self!

“Die when you’re anxious! Die when you don’t want to read your Bible! Die to worldliness! Die when your husband does things wrong! We must side with God against our sin and die!”

It finally hit me. I had been keeping myself alive this whole time! The death I’d tasted after salvation wrought about much sweetness, but I’d begun to believe the lie that keeping myself alive (instead of dying to self) was far sweeter, wrought about more life, and produced more joy. Oh, how so very wrong was I to think that by allowing my flesh to live and breathe that it would somehow produce relief.

“That harsh word, in the soundproof safety of my car will make me feel better after I say it towards that woman who just cut me off”, “Withholding love and grace from my husband when he fails me will make him feel how I felt, and in turn, will make me feel better”, “Getting an attitude back with the rude woman on the other end of the phone will feel better than allowing her jagged words to slice through my ears”.

“What is controlling you?”, the question echoed again in my heart. My answers: anger, pride, impatience… All birthed from a person, but not the right one. But how do I become controlled by Christ’s love instead of my anger, pride and sin? Jackey provided both Paul’s motivation to be controlled by Christ’s love and also his conclusion.

Paul’s Motivation was rooted in the gospel. Paul was well aware of Christ’s love for him because Christ’s demonstration of his love for Paul was his very own death. Paul was aware of his own sinfulness, so much so that he would label himself “the chief of sinners”. Yet Paul had an even greater self-awareness of Christ’s love for him. And this very awareness would serve as Paul’s primary motivation to be controlled by that same love.

Paul’s Conclusion was very straight forward. He concluded to meditate on who he was in Christ because of the gospel and refused to move from that place. We as Christians don’t graduate from the gospel when we grow more Christ-like, but rather the gospel becomes the daily source by which Christ-likeness comes. When we are meditating upon these things we begin to develop personal convictions on the gospel. It was Paul’s convictions that kept him from sin and kept him obedient to Christ and even further, controlled by the love of Christ.

Jackey mentioned John Stott who once said, “We are naturally bent towards self.” Without even having to venture as far back as yesterday, it is evident that this statement is true of all of us. Thankfully God doesn’t just leave us there. He’s graciously provided us with His gospel which has brought about salvation, and the ability to be controlled by something else other than self: the love of Christ.

Gina Concepcion

Posted on: March 14, 2017 - 6:04PM

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