How do you know when you have found your people?

For me, maybe it was the first night of the Renovaré Institute. Fifty strangers walked into a room at a Catholic seminary outside Chicago. It was a picture-perfect September afternoon, the kind of day that any Chicagoan knows only comes every so often. We sat in a large circle, people from as far away as China, Indonesia, Germany, and Togo and as close by as the south side of Chicago. 

Eventually, Carolyn Arends rescued us from that awkward chit-chat vibe. After strumming out a tune, she introduced a practice called laying the altar,” which became the customary way we began our time together. 

We asked each of you to bring an object that signifies who God has been to you recently and how God has been present with you. Please come up and place your object on this table at the center of the room and take two minutes to share.”

I’ve been to countless retreats in my life. What surprised me wasn’t what Carolyn said. It was what she didn’t say. I kept waiting for her to divide us into smaller groups, to set a timer so that we knew when our two minutes were up. Instead, she smiled and sat down.

Wait, what? I thought. Surely they’re going to break us up into small groups? I mean, who’s going to say anything real in a group of strangers? 

It was 4 PM. A couple of overseas cohort members were already fading because of jet lag. 

I did a quick headcount: fifty participants plus ten staff. This. Could. Get. Long. 

Feeling uncomfortable, I stared at my shoes, wondering what was going to happen next. But one by one my new classmates stood up and began to share. Some waded in slowly. Others immediately dove in deep, sharing about heartaches or confusion or anxieties or second thoughts about even being there. Their vulnerability was disarming.

Five hours later, I had learned something important. On the surface, our group had little in common. We were men and women, grandparents and young college graduates, pastors and laypeople, all with differing cultural and Christian backgrounds.

But we did have one thing in common: hunger. Every person showed and spoke of a longing — for more depth, more life, more connection with others, more clarity. And we all had the hunch that this hunger could only be met by Jesus and his friends. 

That night, I got a glimmer that maybe I had found my people. 

Those who find Renovaré are often asking the same question regarding their life with God: Is this really it? Or is there something more?”

Through my time at the Renovaré Institute I learned that yes, there was more. Much more. And that these people — as different from me as many of them are — these people are my people. We walked in as strangers. We walked out as fellow pilgrims, as brothers and sisters.

So I step into this role at Renovaré with a deep sense of joy and anticipation. If you’re someone who hungers for more, you’re one of my people, too. And I can’t wait to get to know you more as we all learn to follow the One who specializes in feeding hungry people.

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Text First Published January 2022 · Last Featured on January 2022