April 7th to 10th, 2016, I was honored to attend the Forum for Theological Exploration's Western Regional Discernment Retreat in San Francisco, California. The theme of the retreat focused on how to listen and follow God's call (specifically in ministry) when we hear it. A text used often throughout was Howard Thurman's "The Sound of the Genuine" commencement speech. One line was especially motivating: "If you miss the sound of the genuine in you, you will be a cripple all the rest of your life, because you will never be able to get a scent on who you are." Quite daunting, though, huh? How will I know when I hear it? What if I never do? What if I'm (gulp) scared? But as we all prepared to "hear rumbling up from your unique and essential idiom the sound of the genuine," through praying, worshiping, inspiring speakers, workshops, small-group discussion, site visits, and discernment coaching, I'd like to think I am becoming confident enough to follow the call when I hear it. Not that I know what it will be.
The moment the shuttle drove through the Mercy Center campus gates, I felt enveloped in love. I don't say peace because I was nervous, knowing I was going to be the, or one of the, youngest there in a large group of young adults 18-28 of whom I had never met before, and I felt my introverted side straining to kick in.
I had a good three hours to settle in and find my way around before the welcome service, so I found myself outside on the incredibly green and forested grounds, impressively secluded for being in the middle of a busy suburb, and the love of God was suddenly all-encompassing, like the extended hug of a loved one gone for far too long. That night, meeting with our small groups for the first time, the laughter, smiles, and near constant affirmations were rejuvenating. I was the youngest, but I was accepted, and a whisper in my head let me know that, yes, this weekend I would be at peace. Sure, the next three days were mentally exhausting, but also stretching in a way my mind and psyche needed.
The whole weekend I was surrounded by an ecumenical, diverse group of individuals who were both my peers and my role models. We would be in deep discussion one minute and crying tears of laughter the next. I cannot recommend this experience more strongly, and am deeply grateful for the nomination and opportunity to discover so many more options for my future and to realize the prevalence in which God is a part of my life, forever and always.