The Suffering Returning to Serve: “It is not an empty and meaningless pain anymore."

February 27, 2014

Before serving for the first time on a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat, I was not preparing as well as I wanted to. I was making choices that interfered with me praying, fasting and preparing for work in the Vineyard. I had hoped to find time to be still and silent and for Eucharistic Adoration so I could be close to God, but instead I pulled away. Several times I was tempted to say I could not serve. I didn’t think I was ready or prepared to come back, even though it had been over a year since I walked in those doors as a retreatant and then out into the world again. 
I was fearful that returning to the retreat, even to serve, meant returning to the beginning of my journey again. I would be back in the same situation where we met over a year and a half ago. I would be that person that was in pieces, full of sadness, with no desire to live and no strength to continue. I was so afraid of falling to pieces in front of everyone, and I knew it was not my right to break down because I was there to encourage THEM. Instead of being there to console, I would need to be consoled again.
Then I remembered the words shared with me before my retreat: “The enemy will try by many ways to keep you away from God and from your retreat”. So I told myself that my fears and the pressure to pull away could be the work of the evil one. I needed to trust God and allow HIM to lead me.   I knew that Jesus wanted me to go. I knew He would help me with my weariness and work out all my other worries and concerns. Most of all, I knew that it was not I that would be there to console them, it would be HIM! I would only be the voice and body, but it would be HIS actions and words.  It was HIS work, and I would only be there letting HIM work through ME for THEM!
When I got to the retreat center, I was suddenly filled with joy and energy! That night I saw and felt the pain with each retreatant.  I saw their faces filled with sadness, pain, shame and confusion, and my heart leapt as it filled with love for them. I wanted to hold them and tell them that everything would be okay, and that there was no need to feel the pain anymore. I wanted to give them the joy that I was feeling seeing them there because I knew the incredible gift awaiting them over the next two days.
Nevertheless, I knew it was their gift to discover and receive and not for me to try to unwrap it for them.  I knew that they had to let God pick them up from the despair where they were. I knew I could trust this, as that is what He did for me.  But as we listened to their stories, my fears crept back in – fear that I would return to where I was and feel the way I felt. But as I listened more closely and shared their tears, I realized that my pain was not the same anymore. The loss hurts…yes…but the loss has hope and my pain has meaning. It is not an empty and meaningless pain anymore. 
It was so incredible to see the transformation that everyone went through on retreat through the power of God and His immense mercy and love.  It was amazing to see their faces glow and radiate joy, the way they walked differently, they stood differently and they smiled not just on their faces, but from deep down inside.  His loving transformation was there regardless of the degree of the sins committed or the adversities lived. He loves us just as we are.
Watching their journey, helped me see my own transformation, along the entire road I have traveled since leaving the retreat a year and a half ago. I realized that I was not at the beginning of my journey, and that I have advanced quite a bit along the road to God.  Jesus has consumed my heart, and filled me with energy, joy and the desire to serve Him more. He has given me an understanding of what happened to me and the decisions I made and helped me on the path to return to Him.  I can see now that my wounds have been healing and that I am not broken anymore.  And I am SO grateful! I know I heard the words “You are my beloved in whom I am well pleased”.  I want to find new ways to serve Him HERE and NOW and in every step of my life.
I share all this to let others know that this ministry is the key for so many who are suffering to unlock the room inside us that holds our fears and let God in to illuminate us with His light.  I know, without a doubt, that when our Lord asks those who have served in Rachel’s Vineyard, “What did you do with the coins I gave you?”, He will see the unending list of woman and men healed through this ministry. May God bless all the laborers of the Vineyard.  I have no words that could possibly show the depth of my gratitude for the new life that has been given to me.    

Tags: Rachel's Vineyard

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