Another take-home message that blared out at me like a trumpet from the retreat was the hypocrisy of saying you are seeking God, and then turning around and doing as you please, including treating the people around you poorly.
Isaiah 58:1-14 tells the story of a group of religious Israelites who complain to God that He doesn't hear them. That God doesn't answer them. And yet when they claim to be seeking God through fasting, they are actually off doing their own thing. They think they are humbling themselves before God, but then they turn around and exploit their workers, fight one another and neglect the needs of the people around them.
In Isaiah 58:1, the Bible says, "shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion..."
What was their rebellion?
Well, how often do you say you are seeking God, and then treat those around you badly? I'm sad to say that I quite often do this with my husband. I take out all my frustrations on him. I use him like a punching bag. Do you gossip about your friends? Or emasculate your husband? Or humiliate your children? Or ignore your parents?
How many of us are doing anything for the homeless?
Or, how often do you say you are seeking God, and then go off and try and solve all your problems yourself without even consulting God? Guilty!
Hosea 10:13 says, "But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors,".
Before the retreat, treating my husband with more respect and listening for God's direction were things I knew I needed to work on, but I had never thought of myself as being hypocritical or rebellious. I certainly didn't think I was planting wickedness and reaping evil!
The bible tells us that if we stop doing as we please; if we stop the fighting, finger-pointing, malicious talk and neglect of those in need, "Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.". (Isaiah 58:8-9).
That's pretty powerful. It helps to answer why I often feel distanced from God. God is not going to listen to me and answer me if I'm saying I'm seeking Him, while at the same time doing as I please.
Our retreat speaker Sandy Cooper, observed that a lack of joy and feeling too weak to handle everything is a sign that you are depending on your own strength instead of God's. A tense, stressed-out home is often a sign we are off doing our own thing instead of listening and obeying God's voice.
Sandy reminded us that as women, we often set the tone in our home. So the next time my house feels like a place of bickering, tension, stress, fighting and exhaustion; the next time I feel distanced from God, I need to take a close look at my actions. Are they saying I am a woman seeking God? Or are they saying "me! me! me!"?