God’s work abounds in Death Valley

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Aquinas photo: Sara Myers
SENIOR STEVEN Browning reflects while watching the sunset during the first of two retreats in Death Valley, CA.

If you want to make people laugh tell a good joke, show them a Tide Pod meme, or pull up your favorite YouTube video. I’ve heard if you want to make God laugh all you have to do is show him your plan.

Throughout my two weeks leading the Death Valley Retreat in December, almost nothing went according to our initial schedule. As one example, about 40 of us on the retreat showed up to 7:30 mass about 15 minutes late. Instead of the usual death glares, the priest welcomed us with open arms during his homily and then invited our entire group to the alter to be blessed. After mass the congregation offered their space (and some doughnuts) for the beginning of our retreat. I was blown away by their hospitality, open hearts and welcoming attitude. Attending this mass was an incredible way to begin our retreat, as they put into action all of Christ’s teachings. They did not judge us for coming in late and wearing dirty clothes. Rather, they opened their hearts and their home to a group of strangers who too were looking to sing the praises of God.

Another way to get people to laugh (it made most people on the retreat scoff) is tell them they are going to climb a nine thousand foot mountain. However, to the pleasure of all 70+ people that ventured out to Death Valley, after quite a bit of sweat, encouragement, and sugary snacks along the way, everyone made it to the top. While these hikes were strenuous and left us out of breath, they filled us with a sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction. Having to put in physical work to get to the retreat area each day was rewarding and allowed us to come together as a group, who could all collectively say they conquered that mountain, dune, or canyon respectively.

Aquinas photo: Sara Myers

THE VIEW from the top of Wild Rose mountain in Death Valley, CA. The Sierra Nevada mountains can be seen in the background.

Contributing to our shortness of breath were the many views that took away our breath along our journey. It was impossible not to see God’s beauty while atop a 3,000 foot sand dune. God’s work was so evident in the octagonal salt crystal formations that sprung from the Earth like tiny spikes. His work was unmistakable at the top of Wildrose Peak, where the outline of the Sierra Nevada’s formed a beautiful skyline above a carpet of sand. Each night before entering our tents we were lucky enough to see God’s work in the countless shooting stars that twinkled above. God’s work was so apparent out in Death Valley, the challenge becomes to continue to find it in our lives back home. Thankfully, it isn’t that difficult on such a beautiful campus.

I love this retreat so much because it is an opportunity to get away from the everyday hustle and bustle of life. The desert provides the perfect place to disconnect from your electronics and connect with the inspiring Scrantonians that are on this journey with you. Although nothing went according to our schedule in the desert, I believe that everything went according to God’s master plan. On the last day of the retreat, we talked about surrendering control of your life and just letting go. This message was easy to listen to while adventuring through the desert where everyday responsibilities were on hold. Surrendering has been more difficult now that I am home and have classes to take and practices to attend, but I find that when I do things get a little bit easier, and a little less stressful. “Let go and let God” was a phrase that I heard several times while out on this retreat, and I think that with this motto we might all be a little better off.

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