Spiritually formative experiences are an essential part of the holistic training of IGSL students to grow in Christlikeness. As Christian leaders, they learn to value rest, healthy rhythms, and reliance on God and experience how these practices shape their life and ministry. Second-year student Neil Astronomo shares how this year’s Spiritual Retreat helped him experience healing from a longtime burden:
Weeks before the IGSL Spiritual Retreat, I’ve been struggling with my relational behavior. I wasn’t paying much attention to it until early this year when I intentionally asked God to transform me into a better version of myself.
No matter how hard I tried to change this behavior, I failed. So I gave up and hoped that others would just accept it as part of my personality. But through people around me, God brought it up several times in different situations. Though I’m a generally sociable person, I’m irritable, impatient, and unforgiving. I unconsciously belittle others and talk condescendingly.
I couldn’t stand the idea that I’ve hurt a lot of people because of this seemingly insignificant issue. So instead of giving myself another excuse, I sought counsel. It eventually revealed deeper issues I had.
Then the Spiritual Retreat came. God showed me that underneath my irritability and lack of grace is fear of failing. It was hard to swallow. To my very core was a weak person trying to prove himself and has been in denial about it for over a decade. More than anything, what I needed was someone to tell me that I’m accepted despite my weaknesses. That I don’t need to cover up with performance or perfection.
During the first solo devotion, I meditated on Isaiah 43:1-4. God was speaking to Israel but I took it as if God were saying it directly to me. “You are mine…I created you…I will be with you… You are precious in My eyes and honored, and I love you,” were the very words I was longing to hear. They brought healing to the scars that I have hidden for a very long time. I know in my heart that I can now fully surrender the situation to God because He is in control. This finally brought peace to my troubled heart.
Have I been transformed right away? I believe I’ve got a long way to go, but I’ve been given a promising start.