There was a question on facebook this morning. What were your first impressions on the Honor Academy? Of the corporate exercise? Our impressions of our ministry placements? My mind wanders back 15 or so years to when I arrived in Garden Valley Texas for a leadership internship and I cringe, embarrassed at memories of my over the top 22 year old year old self.
Why did I even go? It didn’t make sense. I was supposed to be teaching Kindergarten at the christian school where I’d learned to sing the Psalms. I signed up to go to the Honor Academy on a whim, and a pervasive sense of guilt, after a summer mission trip. I wasn’t really going to go. The decision to leave felt “wrong” the whole time I was making it. I was disloyal to my family, I was leaving work that I loved. Things kept getting worse at home. I feared for my sanity. Leaving seemed the only way to break away from the dysfunction.
Once I got there, I never wanted to leave. Life was sane. Structured. We got up for exercises at 5am. There was a schedule, a cafeteria, classes, work and clear expectations. The grounds were beautiful. There was lots of space to just go and be. Attempts to “stretch me emotionally” paled in comparison to the life I was leaving behind. I feared that I couldn’t let anyone know why I was really there, or how broken I was, because then I might not get to stay.
I put myself out there as an extreme extrovert. I was assigned to the call center. It was scary, but I really wanted to do well. I totally focused on meeting external expectations, at the expense of friendships I might have made. One real regret during that time is that I didn’t focus more on people and friendships. Another is that I was prideful. I was older then many of the other interns and the same age as some of the staff, and I didn’t look for others to “speak into my life”.
My favorite thing I took away from my time there was the fasting retreats and the vision statements. Fasting retreats took place over a weekend. There were some structured sessions, but most of the time was spent reading massive amounts of scripture and praying for discernment regarding God’s will for your life. During my two years at HA I went from nebulous ideas about being involved in end times missions work to a solid understanding of God’s purpose for me: as a wife, parent, foster parent, community influencer, and eventually a writer.
God also used those years to rebuild me. It happened in the quiet places. The places that I was all alone with no one watching. I became stronger then I ever knew I was. I became strong enough to stop running away and return home.
Going home didn’t make sense. By the time I was preparing for my third year at the Honor Academy, I was taking college classes, doing a job that I enjoyed, and had found my “groove”. Then I met Puck, a homeless runaway, while on a short missions trip to New Orleans. As I spoke to this boy who dared me to talk him back into the Christian faith he left behind, I was filled with a sure and certain hope the “He who began a good work would complete it”. In that moment, I knew it to be true for all who Christ had called his own, so I went home.
I went home and faced two years of questioning myself as things in my family didn’t improve. I went back to work at the christian school as a sub. This began a comical series of events through which I met my husband. In 2005, by faith, I married a man whose medical status and lifespan were uncertain. It didn’t make sense. And yet, God has used our marriage and home as a stepping stone towards a better life for my family.
I am married to a man I deeply love, and whom God has strengthened day by day, in spite of a prognosis that might have spoken otherwise (and in recent years the diagnoses/prognosis has improved). I find myself, in this pleasant land, surrounded by children, and family, and community. Once, during my last fasting retreat at HA, someone asked us to write about our perfect day. I live that day every day.
I might have met my husband if I’d never gone to the HA, but I never would have married him. I’d not done enough other crazy/faith things yet. I hadn’t yet questioned my beliefs, or had space to heal. I might have gotten away from my family if I’d never gone to HA, but I never would have stuck around long enough to make sure they got away too. I don’t think I would have become a foster parent, there were a lot of things I had to process before I came to that point. I don’t know if I would have wanted children at all. Besides all of this, there are amazing memories. Climbing Pikes Peak. The Ring Banquet. Running in the early morning. Corporate Worship. Thousands of teens streaming through campus each on their way to missions trips. Roomates and friends- people I am so proud to know- several of whom are serving overseas as missionaries. Those Sunday evenings that Dave Hasz taught out of Proverbs. Being pulled from the phones in GE for an “quick” airport run and not getting back to campus for almost a week. Bobbi Jo and my other roommates taking me clothes shopping for my birthday Staying overnight in a Buddhist monastery (thanks Angela). Reading CS Lewis with Crystal. Jennifer teaching me how to “do” my brows
Say what you will of ESOAL or mandatory fasting or any of it, but I am so thankful for my time at HA and the work that God did in me there. Surely all things work to good.