On the first night of Seasons, an image of a stone path made up of small pavers was displayed to describe the intent of the weekend. Disparate elements, like stone pieces, would be laid down to form a road on which the participants could find an individual yet communal experience of God in that time and place.
I certainly felt like a disparate piece, like someone had mistakenly left the back door open, and I had stumbled onto the professionals' stage. Moreover, Katherine and I almost always tell our story together. Since the beginning of our ministry to the Young Marrieds' crowd years ago, we have always felt that the two of us together representing our very different voices in a unified way was more powerful than either of us alone. We had planned that Katherine would likely Skype in to the Los Angeles event via her hospital bed in Athens, but it seemed that particular set up, with technological delays and time differences, would not be conducive to our typical back and forth banter. Thus, I humbly stood before the crowd, without my other half, and told our stories to the best of my rather frazzled ability.
A deep sense of sadness and guilt plagued me. Standing on this stage has never been my dream...it's always been Katherine's, and here I stand alone, as she lays in bed, in agony. And yet, a sense of hope pervaded that overwhelming sense of guilt. God had brought me to this stage through the most unusual set of circumstances. It could only be attributed to the one "in whom all things hold together". Whether I felt worthy of it at all, He would take my humble "lesser half" of the Wolf family and do something good with it. Pushing aside my guilt and insecurity, I prayed that the Lord would speak through me and maybe more importantly, speak to me.
Needless to say, He did. God gave me so many "winks" throughout that weekend to give me assurances that He had brought our story to fit into that path just so. Unbeknownst to me, the songs "Morning Has Broken" (sung at our wedding) and "You Never Let Go" (played on repeat during James' birth and post-stroke) were part of the music program, not to mention that fellow team member Nichole Nordeman's songs, "Seasons" and "Legacy" played integral parts in milestone moments in Katherine's life. Perhaps most striking, Psalm 86:11, "Undivided Heart", Katherine's "verse for the year" of 2008 made BEFORE her stroke, is also one of the central verses in fellow Seasons team member Dr. Curt Thompson's teaching on mind/soul integration. These little signs were so comforting to me that despite so many things not working out as planned, God had clearly orchestrated our story to culminate right into that moment.
I certainly can't speak for anyone else, but for me, Seasons was exactly what I needed that weekend. Though I was focused on presenting to the group, the unique experience that was created there enabled me to nonetheless engage in transformative times of stillness, prayer, worship, learning, and community, just like the other attendees. As a caregiver who for better or worse must "hold it together" most all of the time, this experience was aptly timed for me to release some of my current emotions before the Lord in regards to the sadness and frustration I felt about Katherine breaking her leg. Having some real focused time in prayer and supplication--vulnerable, intimate time--allowed me to find such peace and rest, both physically and emotionally. Seasons hit me right where I was and right where I needed it, and I will truly be forever grateful for that weekend.
Nicole Johnson, the wonderful and wise creator of Seasons, shared this simple thought with me at the end of the weekend...[my paraphrase] often after Jesus had taught, he would instruct his audience not to tell anyone what they had experienced. A lot of times, we keep only the worst secrets locked deep inside ourselves and when wonderful things happen we are quick to excitedly fling them out to the world, where they are often lost in the wind or somehow lost in our translation, in the end leaving us to doubt if they were really all that great in the first place. What if we did as Jesus suggested, and held those best experiences inside us, allowing our hearts to ponder them, inviting the Lord to speak to us most deeply in the process?
Her insight rung so true to me, and though it's perhaps not the most traditional marketing angle (ie. don't tell anyone about it), it clearly worked for Jesus! This is all to say, what I was allowed to experience myself in those few days was something that I want to ponder in my heart a little longer, something that I am not exactly sure how to articulate in a way that would do it justice. Nevertheless, I will say that I honestly believe this Seasons weekend retreat is an extremely unique, Spirit-filled, peaceful place to experience the presence of God as He intersects with the story of our lives at that given moment. I hope that some of you reading this will get the chance to experience it too. Lord-willing, Katherine and I will BOTH be at the next three Seasons weekends across the country, and we would love for you to join us (more info here)!
As I rode back to Athens on the plane, I actually tuned in to the flight attendant's safety spiel. The once off-putting instruction, "please put your oxygen mask on before putting it on small children traveling with you", rang more true this time. I am so grateful for Katherine's directive and my gracious in-laws for encouraging me to find a place of rest by going to Seasons. I imagine in so doing, not only will I now be able to minister to and support my own wife more effectively, but I might have been able to do the same for others who saw my story up close that weekend. God is good.