Hopetown Highlight #2: All Girls' Retreat

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“Play with Joy…”

Our All Girls’ Retreat started, as do so many of our retreats, with a movie on the back of the barn. This week, we watched The Miracle Season, the true story about Caroline Found, who inspired her high school to win the state volleyball tournament after a tragic moped accident took her life her senior year. The story chronicles the grief and the courage her teammates find as they work through the loss of their captain and friend. It is a story of hope and strength on the part of these high school girls…and exactly what we thought our high school girls needed to begin the journey of our week together.

The movie talked a lot about playing with joy. Playing with joy, however, sounded like the opposite of what Caroline’s teammates wanted after her death. Instead, they wanted to forfeit—which is what they did in the beginning of that season. But they slowly entered back in, not just to volleyball, but to a sense of both purpose and joy…we’ll let you watch the movie for more on that.

Melissa talked about how the movie could never have started with that statement, “play with joy”. Everything inside of those girls wanted to forfeit in the beginning—much like we all do. When we have felt rejected or hurt, when we’ve lost someone we care about or been through our own tragedy, we often want to just give up. But the coach helped these girls (and herself) move toward joy, and they moved toward joy through a path that we found ourselves talking about all week long.

In fact, each of the girls at camp, throughout the week, talked about how their lives have been similar to this journey. They talked about 1)Where they are in these steps, 2)Where they want to be, and 3)How they see where they are affecting their relationships. 

1. Show Up

Show up is the first step away from forfeiting. When we show up, we don’t have to have the answers. In fact, we don’t have to do anything. We just come. As 1 John 4:19 reflects to us, Jesus loved us first. We get to receive that love. Showing up is when we don’t necessarily know how to feel or even how to talk about what we’re feeling. We just show up. We can do so because He is so much bigger than we are and loves us right where we are. We just can show up and receive that love.

2. Cover Up

Genesis 3:7 is the beginning of the idea of covering up. Adam and Eve ran and hid, once they became aware of their nakedness. We cover up, too, in our own ways. We hide. Girls, in particular, have been brought up to cover up. We learn how to dress, wear make-up, and even pose for photos in certain ways that cover up what we believe are our weaknesses. We also cover up pain and insecurity. Many of us spend so much time covering up, that the covered up version becomes who we believe we are. 

3. Cheer Up

In the beginning of the movie, the girls decided they wanted to “Win for Line” (Caroline). They had purpose. They were pushing themselves toward better versions of themselves. They were trying to cheer themselves up by pushing past their sadness. We do the same…often on a daily basis. We go with Romans 12:8 that says, “Keep a smile on your face,” sometimes missing the next verse that includes “Love from the center of who you are.” We move who we are to a version of ourselves that is smiley and cheery, no matter what we’re feeling at our center. We cheer up and often end up with relationships that are shallow. We become shallow eventually, too, and struggle with what it means to be or have connections that are real.

4. Open Up

Cheering up didn’t work for the girls very long in the movie—and it often doesn’t for us, either. We can’t keep up the façade. The pressure becomes too much. Life doesn’t make sense. Nothing works the way we want it to. We don’t work the way we want to. The girls were feeling so much pressure to “Win for Line” that they stopped enjoying the game. They started falling apart. We do much of the same. Finally, hopefully, we start to talk. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable and share our feelings. We realize it’s okay to be afraid. Our relationships become deeper. We start to learn more about how to talk and connect. But then, we end up not knowing quite how or when to stop. The people closest don’t necessarily want us to talk about our feelings all of the time and we also have to learn to keep moving in the midst of those feelings. And so it’s time to…

5. Grow Up

When babies get hungry, they open their mouths for food. They want, and then they want more. We’re the same. When we’re loved, we want more. We’re hungry for connection and closeness. We’re hungry to be heard and understood. And no one will be able to fill that hunger except for our Father’s love. Romans 11:33-34 says “Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out. Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do? Anyone who has done him such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice? Everything comes from him; Everything happens through him: Everything ends up in him. Always glory! Always praise! Yes. Yes. Yes.” Growing up is humbling. We’re hungry people. And growing up is the beginning of realizing that there truly is only one who not only understands but can fill our hunger completely with his extravagant generosity. 

6. Clean Up

When you think of a baby eating, what’s the first thing you think of? By the time a baby is finished eating, they have food all over themselves, from head to toe! We get desperate in our hunger and make messes. We’ve got food all over us. We’re trying so hard. God is not only the one who loves and helps us to grow up. He’s also the one that cleans the mess off of our face and hands and hearts, through his Son, Jesus (1 John 1:9). 

7. Wake Up

Romans 13:11 says, “But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God” (needing to clean up!). “The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed…Get out of bed and get dressed!” WAKE UP! Play with joy. 

In the movie, the coach was one of the most transformational characters. She did not want to deal with her own feelings as a result of Caroline’s death. She pushed and pushed and, inadvertently pushed the girls, too, as a result. But, when she turned, the girls followed. The message moved from “Win for Line” to “Live like Line” to “Play with Joy.” Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning…as we go through this “up” kind of process. She did, as well, and motivated those girls with the depth, passion, and joy we find as we wake up. Toward the end of the movie, she turned, looked at the girls and said, “YOU STRONG WOMEN.” They were. She was, too. And they were all even stronger, as a result of showing, opening, growing, cleaning and waking up (with a little covering and cheering along the way.) 

We play with the joy we know now as just a taste of the banquet we will have some day with Jesus. He frees us to play with joy in his love—and through our trust in that love. 

The final day of our retreat, we moved into Romans 12. Romans 12 starts with the words “therefore.” “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We watched this transformation take place in the high school girls over the course of our time together. Therefore, they went home from Hopetown having experienced purpose in encouraging each other, having experienced strength in who they are, and having shared joy. Now, they get to live out the “therefore” as they head back home and resume their daily lives. These strong women. It was an honor to spend the time with them and watch the awakening God is doing in each of their lives and hearts.

We’d encourage you to watch The Miracle Season and talk about what the Up process looks like in your own lives.