I was given the privilege of leading the closing prayer last night after Kairos #48 at Angola. I “earned” this privilege by my reputation for brevity in such matters. However, as is often the case when presented with golden opportunities, I blew it. My prayer was too long. I prayed “For forty-two changed lives, thank you Jesus.” “Forty-two” is one word, or is that considered two words? In any case it was 8 letters and a hyphen, too many. There were forty-two inmate participants and clearly those lives were all changed. But also changed were the lives of the team members, the correctional officers who observed and, in some cases participated at least in the singing. All of Camp C who because of a multitude of cookie bakers, were blessed with cookies and who had to be wondering what all the noise in the visitor shed was about.
At the closing I was distracted by the faces of the very large crowd of guests, many of whom had never been to a closing and many of whom could not stop weeping. More changed lives.
Much effort is expended in preparing the participants for what we refer to as the Fourth Day. By that we mean the rest of the lives which are touched by a Kairos retreat weekend. We warned them that they will be coming down from the mountain. We proclaim that the retreat is the beginning and not the totality of Kairos. We urge them to attend the weekly prayer and share meetings.
Perhaps we could do a better job of preparing the rest of the affected for post retreat life. For all of us it is a question of tenacity. It is a job of carrying on when the excitement and energy of a retreat weekend begins to fade. “Tenacity is more than endurance, it is endurance combined with the absolute certainty that what we are looking for is going to transpire. Tenacity is more than hanging on, which may be but the weakness of being too afraid to fall off. Tenacity is the supreme effort of a man refusing to believe that his hero is going to be conquered. The greatest fear a man has is not that he will be damned, but that Jesus Christ will be worsted, that the things He stood for – love and justice and forgiveness and kindness among men – will not win out in the end; the things He stands for look like will-o’-the-wisps. Then comes the call to spiritual tenacity, not to hang on and do nothing, but to work deliberately on the certainty that God is not going to be worsted.”
To the affected I say, coming down from a mountain, the trick is not to look down. Keep looking up. Keep your eyes on Him and His love, His power to change lives and to bring light into even the darkest of places never changes. The things we hope for during a retreat weekend: that love will prevail and that change will last are possible. Jesus Christ will not be worsted. I read the book: in the end, we win.
Hold on and