Sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex. This is one of the first things our fabulous pastor, Ashley Allen, told us to say to the person sitting next to us. To put it in one word, this was the topic of discussion throughout the 2016 High School Spring Retreat. To put it in three pillars, as another leader, Dan Willerth, called them, we discussed self-worth, self-gratification and boundaries. All of these three pillars were under the roof of God. God plays a huge role in all three of these, and until this weekend I was a little fuzzy on what that meant.

The first night we got there, Pastor Tim Ward jumped right into things. He talked about self-worth. I know this is a topic many people my age, including myself, struggle with. Tim talked about our creation. We read almost the entire first chapter of Genesis, and with every creation, “It was good.” It was not until God created man that it was “very good.” See, we aren’t just good, we are very good. God spent time on making each and every one of us in his image. Sometimes it is hard to believe that. Sometimes we feel we are just okay. It is hard to believe that a God so great, almighty, powerful and wonderful spent time on someone as ordinary as me. This was the point Tim made: we are not ordinarywe are created in God’s image, which is the most amazing thing God could have done for us.

Tim also talked about sex, which was expected because that was the theme of the retreat. He talked about how God created sex as a good thing; however, our society today has morphed it into something selfish and bad. Society has made us think that sex is no big deal, that it’s “chill.” But it is not chill. God created sex as something as sacred and special as you are. Tim also explained how you are never unworthy of God’s love, which is what makes God so incredible. No matter how far off from God’s path you think you have gone, you are never too far because God will never stop loving you no matter what.

Tim told us a story about a woman who thought she had messed up too many times and that God could never love her because of her mistakes. He told her, and he told us, that it is never too late to go back to Godhis grace and mercy is too great. She said no one had ever told her that, and Tim didn’t want us to go through life never hearing that either so he reiterated that you are never too far from God. So, I am telling all of you that tooit is never too late, because he loves you.

Well, going from that first night I knew it was going to be a long weekend, in the best sort of way. The discussion only got more personal from there. Dan Willerth, also known as DW2, kicked off day two. Dan talked about self-gratification and pornography, which is not something you hear about at church…like ever! Not only did we hear from Dan about this subject, but we also heard from Pastor Tom Berlin. We were in disbelief that Tom was speaking to us about the issue of pornography. We were blessed to receive his video message about this topic, and I heard words come out of his mouth that I never thought I would hear from the lead pastor at my church.

Dan talked about giving and receiving when it comes to sex and sexual behavior, and he talked about how self-gratification is a form of receiving that kind of cheats the system. By watching pornography and engaging in self-gratification, you are not experiencing sex the way God intended it. Dan mentioned echad, the Hebrew word meaning “one, altogether or unity in God.” Immediately my mind pictured a triangle with you and your significant other on the bottom two corners and God at the top. In a relationship, the couple should work to move toward God together in unity, or echad. God should always be at the top of the triangle, the ultimate goal.

After lunch we once again heard from the lovely Ashley Allen. Ashley talked about boundaries. She spoke not only of sexual boundaries but also of substance boundaries and emotional boundaries. Ashley talked about how important it is to set boundaries for yourself before you are put in a situation where your boundaries are tested. This is something many people struggle with. Most people have boundaries, or they think they have boundaries, and when these boundaries are tested they begin to get pushed further and further back. Ashley reiterated the importance of setting firm boundaries, so that if they are tested they will stay strong.

We finished off the weekend with something that spoke to a lot of people, including myself. We were each given a rock and a Sharpie and told to write on the rock. The leaders told us to write something on the rock that was holding us down. Something weighing on our shoulders that was preventing us from moving forward on our journey with God. We then brought those rocks down to the lake and threw them as far as we could, ridding ourselves of whatever had been on our minds for so long. I can honestly say that after I threw that rock into the water, I felt immediate relief. It was as if a weight had been lifted, like I didn’t have to carry around what I wrote on my rock anymore.

After throwing our rocks into the lake we returned to the building and found rocks on our chairs with the Bible verse of Isaiah 55:8-9 written on them. This verse says, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'” We are not perfect, we are human and we make mistakes, but God knows this. We should all strive to show God’s love but not to be God, because that is impossible. God has the power to forgive, no matter what mistakes are made or how far we stray, and God will never stop loving you.

This post was submitted by Emily Heier.

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