Jumbo shrimp, good grief, bitter sweet--these are just a few of my favorite oxymorons. Another favorite I hear a lot is this: restful college student.
For many college students, the idea of "resting" is unheard of, aside from catching maybe five hours of shut-eye at night. Whether it's school, work, homework or having a social life, for some reason the hours in college just seem to get filled up so quickly.
Every year, Texas Baptists Collegiate Ministry organizes a prayer retreat called "Abide" that invites college students to do the unheard of: to rest.
It's unscheduled. Once students arrive Friday at Highland Lakes Camp in Spicewood, nearly an hour away from any major cities, they attend an opening session and before they leave on Saturday, they attend a closing session. The hours between then, they simply connect with God, in any fashion they so desire. They can sit by the lake, warm up next to a bonfire, take a walk, take a nap, have some coffee or partake in various "Abide Encounters" designed to help students pray.
The most recent Abide took place Jan. 22-23. Over 375 students and their Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) leaders engaged in worship and prayer, and many returned to college the next Monday with a renewed spirit and an appreciation for rest.
Below are some anonymous reflections from that experience:
"I never realized that I needed time to be silent. The Abide in silence experience, and the time I spent at the prayer garden allowed me to "be still and know that [He] is God". Before the semester started, I was excited for everything God was going to do through BSM, with me and with my friends. But when the semester actually began, I felt empty. What I hadn't realized was that I wasn't spending any time in silence, taking care of myself, resting in reverence of God. It was something He revealed to me that I was taking for granted. I needed to be intentional in abiding with him in silence in order for me to be effective in ministry and service."
"I love this time of the year. Especially since we use the Abide time to help motivate our students for a Leadership Retreat, which, in turn, directs our steps towards a great semester. After our weekend ends, (Abide/Leadership Retreat) our students are able to create practical steps of what God wants us to do. Consequently, we not just hearers of the Word but also doers. Abide is a starting point for a recharge that ends in students' lives being changed forever."
-Anonymous BSM staff member
"During the closing worship as we sang "Oceans" I had to stop singing because I was just so moved by the power of Christ in the room. Listening to hundreds of college students sing "take me deeper than my feet could ever wonder" was beautiful. Singing that is definitely not easy for me and is actually a little scary. But then God reminded me of the scripture students had just read (Ephesians 6:10-18). When He takes me (us) deeper than my feet could ever wonder, I (we) will be clothed with His armor and empowered by His spirit. What an honor and privilege that is!"
"My favorite room at Abide was the room of confession. I went in and found the words that most described what I was feeling and as I made my way around the room the order was perfect. What I loved most about this room was that after writing down my sin and confession on the note card, I got to reenact what Jesus has done for us on the cross. The simple but so creative "covering of my sin" was overwhelming and it brought tears to my eyes. When I got to the table of writing a letter of praise to God for forgiving me of my sin, I was reminded of how quickly God willing forgives us. I had been in the room for at least 5 minutes and was already forgiven. It blew my mind to think of the reality of God's forgiveness. I am immensely grateful for this reminder."
"For a while, I have been struggling with discouragement in my calling and time in college. After hearing about Abide, I was interested in going but I didn't sign up right away. The week before, I felt an overwhelming urge to go and needed to sign up that day. So I did, went to my BSM director and let him know I was interested in going. I spent the days leading up to Abide preparing myself to hear from God and experience what he had in store for me. I could not be more pleased with how God showed up this weekend. It definitely empowered me to work through this discouragement and find peace in God."
I have been struggling with worthlessness, and depression a lot lately. Abide gave me the opportunity to slow down and give it all to God. I didn't really go to all the stations I kind of used this weekend to focus on myself and refocus. I was able to go through all of 1 Peter and it really opened my eyes to the grace of God and that I need to give my struggles to him.
It's amazing what happens when you get students in a place where they can hear from God. He speaks and we get to sit on the front row and watch the show.
-Anonymous BSM director
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me." John 15:4