Finding God: Living life like the ‘fourth day’


This year’s Metanoia retreat took place at Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center.

Justin Johnson

I had the opportunity this semester to be a student leader on the Metanoia 16 retreat. Though I have worked dozens of retreats before, this one still proved to be a meaningful experience.
Metanoia, like other retreat models, has a concept known as “the fourth day.” The retreat lasts three days, so the fourth day is when you go back to reality. The fourth day is how you live your life differently after the experience of the retreat.
It has been a theme in my life that the week following a retreat is usually a difficult one. Unfortunately, the week after Metanoia was no exception. My week felt like one challenge on top of another. Things were happening around me that I did not have control over and did not understand. I was tired, frustrated, unmotivated, defeated, hopeless and miserable. However, I was not alone.
I have served as a resident assistant on campus for the last three years. One of the secret pearls of the job is the connections that you build with your staff. This week many of us felt similar feelings. We were present to one another and did what we could to make the best out of our bad situations.
None of us had control over what was happening to us, but we had a choice in how to respond. We allowed ourselves to feel our emotions and not dismiss them. We gave each other space, but never let someone feel alone.
Together we laughed, cried and screamed our way through the situations. We went through it together. We were present to the realities of each other.
Finding God is not always about seeing the good. There is evil and injustice in the world. I believe we are called to do what we can every day to spread more love. We are constantly called to live the fourth day.
This week, when I was on my way to a meeting that I had anxiety about I checked my RA mailbox. In it, there was a card from a mentor and someone I admire on campus. The card let me know that I was seen.
Although this past week I did not feel like I was making an impact or that what I said mattered, this card let me know otherwise. It served as a reminder that I had been showing love on campus in a variety of capacities for nearly four years.
I have tried to live out the fourth day through my roles on campus. I try to advocate for students, working to give them the best experience I can, and I do care more than I believe most people realize. Some days I have to remind myself that I am a student too. I start to feel the emotional burden of the expectations that I have set for myself. I begin to think that maybe none of it means anything. I struggle to see if I am living the fourth. The card let me know that living the fourth is about actions, not results. It communicated that not only was I seen, but my heart was too.
I felt very validated in the fact that the people around me could see that I was not having a good week. They knew because they know me well enough to know when something is off. They check in because they care. The people I have been blessed with remind me that I am not alone. Living the fourth day can be vulnerable, difficult and occasionally even painful. The simple gathering of friends or an unexpected handwritten card reminds me that I have support. It gives me permission to care for myself before others. It lets me know that I am not expected to be perfect. In a week of chaos and turmoil, I found God in the people I encounter every day and the ways in which they care for me.

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