“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame,
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)
IF GOD IS REAL, THEN WHAT?
I’ve been writing and pondering this post for the better part of a week now.
It’s not that I didn’t have time. I even had two full snow days thrown in last week. But something still wasn’t right. I didn’t know exactly what to say or how to say it.
On February 7-8, 1,200 women came together for IF: Gathering in Austin, TX (joined by about 40,000 in homes all over the place through live-streaming) for the purpose of gathering, equipping, and unleashing our generation all while addressing and being structured around the question, “If God is real, then what?”
I knew that the further removed I was from IF: Gathering, the hazier some of the details might become. But I also knew that the further removed I was, the less emotionally charged my reactions and reflections would be.
And I needed to give myself the grace and permission to process this over several days instead of trying to make sense of it mere hours removed from the event.
Because in this season of intentional rest, as I re-learn parts of myself that I’ve all but forgotten, I’ve remembered that the Lord has gifted me – yes, gifted – with a spirit of discernment. And while sometimes it’s far too easy for that to slide into the sin of judgment, it often simply means He allows me to see and evaluate things from a different [sometimes less emotional and more practical] perspective. And that’s part of what makes me who He’s created me to be.
I certainly have an immediate opinion (let’s just be honest, for almost everything…), but I’m discovering that my first reaction is not always the same as my truest response. I need time and space to think through and analyze and process for that.
So I’m learning to lean into that a little more often. I’m learning to not apologize for that part of me. I’m learning to give myself the grace and space and time without needing to throw my voice into the mix just to be heard … you know, while people are actually still interested.
I’m still not necessarily through with the processing, and I still can’t really put everything together in a neat package for you, but honestly, that’s just not really what IF was all about.
Because immediately after confessing that even the core leadership team still isn’t quite sure what God is doing or how God is working through IF – through this vision, through this movement, through this unifying and equipping of women after Jesus’ heart – but that it’s a step of obedience to and trust in the God who asked, who invited, who called, the founder of IF, Jennie Allen, said this:
“My greatest fear is that we walk away and do great stuff.”
Because it doesn’t start with just doing great stuff. If God is real, then it starts with brokenness and throwing off our sin and obedience and fixing our eyes on Jesus and walking with Him.
At first glance, it seems like an unlikely choice that in the midst of a season in which I have identified rest as my word for the year, I would fly halfway across the country to go to a brand new women’s conference with a largely unknown and yet-to-be-fully-fleshed-out vision.
But from the moment I heard about it, I knew this was something I had to be a part of. I still can’t tell you exactly why. But something far beyond mere curiosity drew me to this event, to its purpose and heartbeat, from the very beginning. And even in the moments when I felt nervous and uncertain and uncomfortable about what exactly I was getting into, I still knew this was something I had to be a part of.
So I asked one of my best friends who lives in Houston to go with me. I spent a day on either side of IF just hanging out with her family, including her cutest and most precious 19-month-old little girl. I love her to pieces! We were fast friends. I seriously could have sat on their kitchen floor playing with stickers for days!
It still blows my mind that we both got tickets (they sold out in about 45 minutes), but I’m so grateful that we did. Doing this unknown thing together made it that much better. I wouldn’t trade our time together for anything – from the drive to/from Austin, to the good eating, to the hotel time and everything in between.
If I had to characterize IF:Gathering in familiar terms, I would call it two days of creative and Christ-centered, Christ-filled, and Christ-glorifying worship.
From the music to the times of intentional and thoughtful prayer (both by ourselves and with those around us) to communion to testimonies and conversations on stage to small group conversations with those around us to kneeling together to the keynote speakers.
Powerful is an understatement.
It was every bit as good as it sounds.
And those small group conversations? They were centered around some of the hardest, but also some of the best and most thoughtful questions in the best and most intentional progression I have ever seen. I cannot tell you what a sweet blessing that group was to me. We partnered up with two other friends who had come together from the Houston area, and their honesty and vulnerability and graciousness during our times together made those times that I was initially pretty nervous about totally worth it and absolutely precious.
And when it came to the speakers, I was afraid I would just feel beat up for two days. Because in the name of listening to the voice of Christ alone (rather than every other voice around me), I’m all about NOT doing these days. I’m learning to focus only on what Christ is asking of me, what He is calling me to, and honestly, more and more these days, I’m sensing He’s just plain and simple calling me to Himself. And I like it.
But although there were some statements that I had to intentionally not make myself feel guilty about and some exhortations that I had to set aside as maybe not meant for me in this moment, and although I still entered every session with a desperate plea for wisdom and discernment, the whole two days was much more focused on leaning hard into Christ and running our own race. With eyes fixed on Christ alone. And loving and supporting each other as the unified Body of Christ along the way. Helping and healing one another instead of hurting. Building one another up instead of tearing down.
There were women there from all over the theological spectrum. And that’s not easy in a gathering such as this one. But with Christ as the common unifying thread, it. was. good.
So rather than feeling beat up by my lack of doing in this season, I actually left feeling very encouraged and settled and content and affirmed in listening to the voice of Christ alone. The one that’s telling me to be still, the one that’s telling me to come to Him so He can give me rest, the one that’s telling me to walk with Him.
Because if God is real, my then what is to listen to how He’s leading me today in accordance with His infallible Word and to trust Him in that and to obey Him. Even when it looks different than what my sister beside me is doing. Even if it seems counter-cultural or counter-intuitive.
If: Gathering was about worship, about freedom, about obedience, about trust, about leaning into hard to Christ and allowing Him to lead every moment of this life. Without knowing all the details yet to be unveiled. It was about just being in the presence of Jesus, about drawing close to Him, and about trusting Him in that place of nearness.
So in the aftermath of IF: Gathering, I’m taking to heart the words of Bianca Olthoff,
“Run yo’ race.”
With eyes fixed on Christ alone. To do what He alone has invited you into and called you to.