Image credit: Flickr
Sometimes I grow weary of Christian culture.
Not the true backbone tenets of Christianity. Not Jesus...He is is always worth everything.
But the culture we create around our faith. The fads and the lingo. The "truths" we adopt that are nowhere to be found in the actual Bible. The parts of following God that we pour our focus on because it feels comfortable, and the parts we downplay because it doesn't. The sins we yell about because we don't struggle with them, and the ones we sort of pretend aren't really a big deal because we do.
And I think what drives me the most crazy in it all is that in our zeal to live our lives to please God, we forget that we're called to be brothers and sisters. We adopt pet theological or political ideas and decide that everyone who disagrees is not just wrong - but our enemy. We must stay away. We walk out of churches and lash out on Facebook and break relationship over and over again.
There have been times that I've wanted to step away from the internet forever. Because of the fighting. Among Christians. Blogs pitted against one another in word wars over gender roles, postmodernism, whoever happens to be president, etc. Factions forming and labels leveled.
There have been times I've wanted to step away from church forever. Because of the fighting. Among Christians. Hurts piled on hurts, rumors and perceptions that wrench apart friendships. Leaders worn and broken by the impossible burden of expectations. Differences allowed to irreparably divide.
This would be a good time to point out that I am pointing each of these verbal fingers at myself just as much (if not much, much more) as at anyone else. I drive my own self into fits of frustration over my failures at unity. The tension of being unafraid to disagree on issues, but to not allow that disagreement to fracture a friendship or cloud my view or cause me to label another Christian in all sorts of stupid ways. Ugh.
When I first heard about this thing called IF:Gathering, I was more skeptical than excited. As Sarah said more eloquently than what I'm capable of, I have all the feelings about conferences. The rah rah emotions and lip-service to real life change. The intention of inclusiveness that might not really pan out, as we simply form larger circles of same-ness. I have been there, done that. And I am done with that.
But this IF thing? It grabbed my heart and wouldn't let go. When I began to hear who formed the planning team, I wondered if maybe, possibly, this movement could really be different. I'm very aware that these people disagree on some things, but also that each one of them loves Jesus to a depth that puts me firmly to shame. When they planned the conference, then learned that the cost was prohibitive for some, and so they re-did the whole structure from scratch, threw fees out the window to open the doors and decided to just trust God? That they really cared more about gathering women in Austin - and everywhere - to seek God together, than on making everything silky smooth? When I had four friends who said, "I'm in. Let's go to Texas!"?
When Jen Hatmaker posted this?
I don’t know how else to say it other than this: This feels right. It feels right to say come, come one, come all. Come to this table. Practice dissimilar theology? Grab a seat. Don’t fit a mold of some sort? Sit with us. Cranky about conferences but crazy about Jesus? Pull up a chair. Hungry, tired, hopeful, impassioned, cautious, fire in your bones? You belong here. Starving to see God move in our time? We need you. Old-timer, new-comer, here is your seat. Rich, poor? This is your table.
God, gather us and move. We care nothing for our constructs but only for your presence. Shove us aside, tear down the walls, and build a raging fire. May your fame be declared, your kingdom come on earth, and your daughters set free and set ablaze. Bring us to your table; there are enough seats for all. We are hungry and ready and we await You.
Well then. Sign me up. Cranky, tired, cautious, starving. Burned out on so much, but ready to remember what matters in this whole mess. Ready to see what happens - what is already happening - when we choose to take the petty dividing lines and the guilt-by-associations and all of the other junk we hold out as shields and drop it all to see each other how He sees us. To live unafraid again.
Today, IF:Gathering Austin sold out in less than an hour. My four friends and I, by some small miracle, were all able to register. So, let's do this thing.
Because when Ann says this...
...and Jen says this...
...and Sarah (the one with the twin-to-me conference feelings) says this...
...and Angie says this...
...and Nish says this...
...and Jennie (the visionary) says this...
...well, then God is moving, people. And I'm ready to trade fatigue for a movement toward freedom. To stop living in the weary and start living the what if...?