By Emily Miller
After a retreat, we are always told to go out and “live the fourth day.” But what happens on the fifth day and the Jesus high is gone?
We can connect with friends, remember to partake in the Sacraments, and devote just 10 minutes to God through devotional apps and prayer.
I recently had the opportunity to go on a Koinonia retreat. The retreat was advertised as “Kairos for college students.” For those who have never been on a Kairos retreat during high school, Kairos means “God’s time” and is designed as a chance for high schoolers to take three days and listen to what God has in store for their futures. Most people see Kairos as a transformative experience, and I did too. I deeply needed Kairos when it came because it was right before I lost my grandma. The time was perfect. So, when I was given the opportunity to go on a Koinonia retreat, I was eager to jump on board.
The retreat went as one would expect. Adoration was beautiful, and confession allowed me to humble myself in front of Christ to remember that I am not perfect. Near the end of the retreat came the traditional “fourth day” talk that many Catholics know well. Because the retreat lasts only three days, living out the fourth day means going forward into the “real world” knowing that God is ever-presently guiding them. No one wants to be reminded of how alone they felt before the retreat, but everyone wants to remember how freeing it feels to go to confession and turn to God, so this talk always resonates with everyone. I left that retreat ready to live out the fourth day as best I could.
But with every retreat inevitably comes the dreaded fifth day. The day you commit a small sin or two, marking the tiny rocks of the oncoming avalanche that plagues you and distracts you from God once more. For some, this can be a fight with your brother or sister. For others, it could be the latest gossip about that one girl you just can’t stand or a long tangent about a professor who really is out to get you. In college, it can be so difficult to live life on the straight and narrow as God wants. Sometimes, it feels entirely impossible. For myself, my days consist of schoolwork, athletics, and working. I am a softball player at a small liberal arts college with a double major, and work a lot. Life can be stressful, and many times I find myself putting my faith on the backburner. I attend mass and a weekly worship service once a week, but unless I am in either of those scenarios I often find God in the far corners of my mind.
Retreats like Koinonia or Kairos can be an amazing opportunity to step away from the stress and remember that God should always come first. However, once we get back to real life it can be easy to forget that God should always come first. So, what do we do? Here are three ways I have been encouraged in my faith following retreats:
One way I have been able to remind myself to put God first comes from daily devotional apps on my phone. There are plenty of options out there, but these apps serve help you to take a few minutes out of your day and focus on God. Many of these apps have a verse from scripture and a devotional testimony from someone discussing how the verse has impacted his or her life. Then, there is often a prompt encouraging you to reflect and journal about the verse.
Group-chats are another way to keep God in your mind after retreats. My Koinonia family has a Facebook group through which we are still able to connect daily and share what is going on in our lives. This has been great for us because we are able to talk about our faith and offer up prayer intentions. We all know what it’s like to share an emotional three days together focused on God, so group-chats can help you stay focused on God and remind you how God works through yourself and those around you.
Participating in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, will be the best way to revive what is lost after the Jesus high. Through these sacraments, we are united once more with Christ and able to talk with Him about all that has caused us to stray again.
Our lives are busy. It can be so difficult to remember to keep God first. As college students, life moves so fast, but retreats help us slow it all down. We know that the high doesn’t last forever, but the simple solution is prayer. Reaching out to our friends helps, but it is so important to remember that God doesn’t abandon us. He never does. God cares about us. He loves us. Even when that high passes and we forget to put Him first, He is still there. We can always remember the way back. No matter how far we stray, God is right where we left Him with open arms. No matter what happens, even on the fifth day, God still loves us – we just have to find those 10 minutes in our day to dedicate to Him.