listening to one another

The best part of the conference Saturday was hearing from the people who were formerly homeless and recovering addicts. Their stories are amazing accounts about how God gets through to apparently hopeless people and is able to lift them up, and they offer powerful hope for others in similar situations.

I was reminded that the witness of these people needs to be at the center of any retreat work I (may get the chance to) do. A couple different aspects of this truth can even be directly applied in the retreat I was working on a few months ago.

For example, the central importance of listening to one another (rather than just listening to the retreat "leader"). In one of the sessions I had planned for a retreat on the woman at the well, I wrote:

...the Samaritan woman was surprised that Jesus asks her for help. Often we are reluctant to ask certain people for help, especially if they are very different from us or we do not respect them. But many times God chooses precisely these people to meet our needs, to help build respect for one another and teach us to trust those who seem strange or suspicious (or useless) to us.
I'd like to emphasize that by making discussion and listening to one another the main focus of the retreat.

And that leads into the importance of the stories of someone "who's been there." In another session, I wanted to focus on Jesus' reason for choosing the Samaritan woman to announce him to the town (when she wasn't of the highest moral standing). And I also wanted to ask about Jesus' way of showing her that he knew her faults already. One of the most important parts of a powerful witness is being honest, especially about our faults. People can identify with that. And they trust us more when they see humility and vulnerability.

If the retreatants are familiar with 12 step spirituality (and most probably will be), these points will resonate with them. But really these truths are valuable to anyone who wants to give and receive spiritual help.