Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there and why is it meaningful to you?
I watch quietly as one of my peers speaks at the podium, exposing the inadequacies of her life, and pouring her heart out for all to view. When she is through with her story, everyone lines up to share embraces and offer a kind word. Everyone is accepted here; everyone is caring. There is a sense of love like I’ve never seen before, an energy that pulsates between every person in this room. I am at Kairos. Kairos, meaning “God’s time,” is a weekend retreat held at the Church of Ascension. It is a three-day adventure for juniors and seniors to come closer to God and to better understand themselves. No cell phones or any kind of technology allowed – not even a watch. Kairos is a mini vacation from the outside world, a time to just let God speak to your heart.
On Friday, the first day of Kairos, I knew absolutely nobody on the retreat. I spent the first few hours or so timidly introducing myself and trying desperately to make a few friends. However, I soon learned that I had no reason to be nervous. We listened to a few of the retreat leaders give their testimonies, and I immediately felt so refreshed by hearing the amazing ways that God had worked through each one of their lives. The leaders emphasized over and over again how much we are loved; I felt myself quickly growing closer to these people who, twenty four hours ago, were complete strangers. But the magic was only beginning.
The next day, we talked about giving and receiving love. The lights were dimmed, and the leaders took turns reading unexpected letters to the campers from their parents. Many of the kids around me were in tears as they heard the words of their families reassuring their love. We were then taken into the chapel to pray, and soon each camper received a huge package filled with letters. Some from friends and family; some from complete strangers. However, each letter was personalized – many handwritten – and each told how much the recipient was loved and wanted by God, and by everyone in our community.
That night, we were all asked to share our own testimonies at the front of the room. We were encouraged to open up about our lives, and were assured that everything said would remain confidential. Slowly, thirty-six teenagers stood in front of their peers, one by one, and revealed their stories. I was in shock at the amount of pain and negativity that stains this world. I listened as my peers told about their problems with drugs and alcohol, toxic “friends,” and broken families. I felt a lump rise in my throat as one of my new friends confessed to trying to hang himself one night in his basement because of his severe depression, something he had never shared with anyone. I watched in awe as one boy explained his sexuality for the first time out loud. And I smiled as every single student shared how God had either changed, or was in the process of changing his or her stressful life. After we were finished speaking, each person was hugged by everyone else there (approx. 35 times) and showered with little encouraging notes that we called schmilys (see how much I love you). Never before had I seen so much love and acceptance in one room. I knew that this retreat was exactly what God wanted for every person present, and in this moment I felt perfectly content.
I always knew that God could do amazing things, but Kairos definitely made that statement tangible for me. I know now that we must strive to give love to others just as God gives love to us. And in order for us to truly be content, every time must be “God’s time.”