by Alexis Lim Zhen Ting
There’s something mysterious about being within the fences of 2 Lor Low Koon.
In there, my heart’s quietly and stably ablaze – after the initial flash of red and yellow sparks, I find my fire dancing to beat of the Lord’s soft whispers, especially throughout the 10 days I’ve spent at the School of Christian Leadership (SOCL).
Out there though, the flame cracks and fizzles. On good days, the flames leap in excitement. On bad ones, the loud voices of the world almost snuff out my convictions; the fire is left dimly glowing, threatening to go out.
But that’s the thing – retreats are meant to kindle that fire to sustain us for the rest of the time that we’re not in a retreat setting. The big question is then: How do keep this fire burning? Better still, how do we fan this fire into a consuming flame?
Here are 5 things I found helpful for my spiritual journey post-retreat:
- Revisit the sparks: Post-retreat reflections
I remember when my friends first asked me about my SOCL experience, I whipped out my notebook, squinted through the jungle of text that I have written throughout the 10 days, looking out for the “!!!!!!!!” marks I’ve littered around to identify key takeaways. At the end of that conversation, I felt like I hardly did the retreat justice.
I decided to sit down to reflect and consolidate the truths that were revealed to me throughout the retreat. The exercise itself was refreshing, re-experiencing the retreat days after being immersed in the world.
This page titled “TRUTHS FROM SOCL” with succinct points of my reflections proved useful beyond the reflection exercise. Whenever I felt like I needed spiritual reinforcements, going back to these revelations reminded me of the messages from God that ignited the fire within me in the first place.
- Feed the fire: Routine-based commitments
Retreats are usually refreshing because it throws us off our usual worldly routine. It establishes a routine that is god-centered: Divine office, morning prayer time, worship, sessions, night prayer, … Our fire for God roars during the retreat precisely because of this unwavering focus on God.
Practically speaking though, out of a retreat, our daily activities would still involve our worldly obligations (studying, working, etc.). To continue to feed this fire, we need to change our daily routine to make it one that involves prioritizing God. Routine-based commitments can come in big and small forms: A simple Our Father in the morning, saying grace at every meal, attending daily mass…
What I have found most helpful is reading and reflecting on the gospel every night. It has become my daily bread; in the space of the short ten, fifteen minutes that I dedicate fully to Jesus, I receive the messages from God that reminds me to live out my identity as a child of God just as I did at the retreat. Two bonuses: I feel readier to receive the Word at mass, and better equipped with bible knowledge that comes in handy in my conversations about God!
- Tinder the fire: Community
Hold your horses, do not go firing up the app. Tinder, before the app marred all connotations of it, is a piece of material that burns easily, used for catching fire from sparks.
That is what my brothers and sisters in Christ are for me in my spiritual journey. When I momentarily drown in the voices of the world, they cover my ears and remind me about the whispers in the silence. When they are tempted to take the wide and spacious way out, I block their path and nudge them towards the narrow gate.
Even when our flames are dim, there’s still something in us that is easily combustible. We just need our community to bring back the fiery passions within us.
The tip is therefore to look for your tinder. Surround yourself with people who are as invested as you are in each other’s growth. Check in with each other constantly. Carry out your routine commitments together. Become comfortable with asking and answering the “How is your walk with the Lord” question. Let your convictions inspire each others’, and keep that flame alive.
- Radiate the fire: Testify
Here is a charcoal on fire. How do you grow this fire? Throw more charcoals in the pile.
I find that testifying for Christ is truly powerful in sharing the desire for Christ to someone else, but also renewing the fire within me.
I only experienced the power of testimony when a friend in distress reached out. We met and talked, and something clicked – I found myself sharing a particular truth I took away from SOCL that moved her. I could feel the spirit working within me as I shared that experience, finding the right words to be the conduit of the joy of the Lord within me.
By the time we parted, I felt as renewed as I wanted her to be renewed, and more on fire than ever before.
I’m not saying that you should pick up the phone, go down your contact list and start raving non-stop about your awesome retreat experience. I think that the desire to share will come when the Perfect opportunities arise. What we need to do is then to first be aware of the truths that we’ve been blessed with (See Tip #1), and second to commit to respond to these promptings.
- Return to the Source: Prayer
At the end of the day, it’s not your own efforts that keeps your fire burning – God and God alone decides that!
When you’re feeling low on fuel, keep in prayer. The fact that you recognize and are probably not contented with a dimly glowing fire is already a sign of God’s grace working powerfully within you. The desire to keep your fire ablaze is from God too! Continue to pray, have faith that the Spirit will ignite your fire in Good time.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
Praise the Lord for your passion for Him after your retreat experience! I pray that you will continue to be ablaze and be the light of the world!
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