I was planning to write a post about the event and maybe some pictures from it when I got back. There's just one problem: I didn't go.
There are several reasons, and all of them were complicated, so I won't go into them here, but the week before we were supposed to leave, I found out some things that meant I wouldn't be able to go. I was really disappointed and upset, and kept wishing that things would change somehow so I would be able to go. Of course, they didn't. But even though it wasn't easy and even though I still wish I had been able to go, I think God was using the experience to show me something, which is what this post is about today.
I had fallen into an unfortunate cycle, which Youth Retreat was a part of. I would feel really energized and on fire for God during the retreat and right after, and for a few weeks I would continue to move even closer to Him. Then, I'd start to level out and maybe drop down a little, staying about the same with slight drops and increases. All year, though, I'd be slowly moving downward. By next February, I would be much farther away from God - and yet, I wouldn't make any effort to change it. I knew Youth Retreat was coming up soon, and I would rely on that to bring me back to where I needed to be spiritually. I wasn't doing any of the work myself.
This weekend, I learned that I can't rely on anything but myself to have a close relationship with God. I'm definitely NOT saying that I shouldn't go to church, youth group, youth retreat, or any other events, but that I can't use those as an excuse not to put any of my own effort into the relationship. It's easy to feel close to God when you're someplace where he's the entire focus of everyone there. But you need to put in effort of your own all the time. God used the fact that I wasn't able to go to Youth Retreat to teach me that, and I'm glad that I learned it.
It didn't make it any easier to stay home from Youth Retreat, but that also helped me understand that sometimes if there's something you really need to learn, you won't understand it unless it hurts.
Youth Retreats and other events like them are amazing. Worshipping with other people is so important to having strong faith and being close to God. But I now know that sometimes, the most important thing is to be able to find God when there's no one else except you and Him.