God, Nature, and Relationships


taylor group

I learned the importance of setting aside my own quiet times with God and being vulnerable in building intimate relationship with others.

Whenever we think of the word “retreat,” I think we tend to associate that with “getting away” from our normal lives, leaving our physical surroundings, and finding a place free from daily distractions. This conception is what I initially held as I was busy packing for the retreat. After all, this was my first retreat and I was excited by the prospect of taking a mini vacation away from campus. Little did I realize that when one retreats from life, one still ends up in some place.

Even though retreat was only for the weekend, I felt that I had grown in Christ. In my quiet times, I learned of creation and its constant glorification of God from a passage in Psalms. I observed the twisting trees, the rush of the river, and the brightness of the sun. Truly, all these things must have been created by God. We, as busy creatures, often forget to stop and appreciate this world that God has created for us. I prayed at that moment, praising God for His wondrous works and thanked Him for allowing me to live in this beautiful world.

The second passage, for Sunday morning, was in Luke and discussed the futile nature of worrying. We worry so much about every part of lives. In order to become who God made us to truly be, we need to rest in His Word and trust Him to provide for our needs. The raw simplicity of that passage really spoke into my life. Being in the peaceful landscape  that God made removed me from the worries of life and gave me the true sense of retreat: to run from the worldly things into the eternal embrace of God, who loves us and wants to be with us in everything that we do.

 I also enjoyed listening to the speakers during retreat and I learned different lessons from each. Leila’s talk about relationships and the power of relationships and community resonated with me. Coming from the Asian-American culture of hard work and no play, I realized my own longing to be connected to others who know me, truly know me, for who I am and to accept that. Yet the greatest pains and the greatest joys come from our interactions with each other. Whitney, on the other hand, showed me that joy can be found through our painful past. She made me laugh and I realized just how much God has done through her and how much He can do through me as well. We are all broken people, but the healing power of God’s love can surpass that and we can become strong through Him. Finally, Brent gave me several life lessons that I am very grateful for. He challenged me to see intimate relationships as a bit of a radical thing. We should strive for intimacy and to push each other to be who God made us to be.

I loved Men’s Time because of the vulnerability and transparency. I could tell that we all implicitly understood one other as we discussed about ourselves in light of our gender and cultural identity. I came away from that time with a greater sense of being a man of God.

Without a doubt, the free time part of retreat and fellowship was a lot of fun. I enjoyed making new friends from Long Beach and UC Riverside. My favorite bonding moments lie in those card games I played. It was all in good fun and was an enjoyable way to get to know others. Small group was more serious, but I witnessed intimacy that was such a prevalent theme for this retreat. I was humbled as I learned about the busy and sometimes tumultuous lives of others. At the same time, it was freeing being able to share my past (not because I wanted to get it over with), but because there was a certain strength in pouring a part of myself into others.

All in all, I would say that retreat was a time of real spiritual growth for me. I learned the importance of setting aside my own quiet times with God and being vulnerable in building intimate relationship with others. I came away with new friends and grew closer to old ones. Even though I came back to UCI with a midterm, I look back to my retreat experience and ask myself if it was really worth it. The answer was easy: “most definitely.”




Taylor Shen, University of California, Irvine