Spending a weekend at a writers and speakers conference was much less of an instructional experience on the “how to’s” of the business (although there was plenty positive instruction), and much more of a personal spiritual awakening. In the South, the presence of God just seems BIGGER. Not necessarily better than in the beautiful Pacific Northwest where I am from, but more prevalent in everyday life. These folks have figured out something that I have been often challenged by… how to integrate God in their most routine and seemingly insignificant moments.
Perhaps it is how I was raised more than where I am from, but in our house God had a very small guest appearance in very few episodes of our life. He graced our dinner table most nights when I was little as we thanked Him for our meal, but He seemed nowhere to be found in the crashing of dishes against the off-white walls now splattered with food when the meal failed to please. He came over at Christmas time most years, but certainly took a back seat to Santa Claus. And he was always conveniently absent when I sat alone in my room pretending to sleep amidst the raised voices and hurling profanities coming from the living room. Where was He in those moments?
Surrounded by hundreds of faithful women at the She Speaks Conference 2013 made me feel God’s presence in ways that I have not experienced before. The stories shared were directed toward me. The conversations were meant for my ears. And the food was meant to nourish my body as the faith seeped into my soul. Sure it benefited many other women too, but it was purposefully and personally crafted for my needs. Every prayer I heard evoked deep emotion within me and it made me wonder if, in fact, He had been there all along.
These women knew what it was to truly believe in God without reservation and I deeply admire that. They knew all the words to the worship music even before they appeared upon the screen. They knew the appropriate places to interject an “amen”. And above all, I believe that they had come to be personally led by our God. They had it all together and I was feeling inspired and uplifted but incredibly inadequate and biblically ignorant.
How did they become such good Christians, I wondered? Where did they learn when to pray, how to talk to God, and that the scriptures could be related to their regular lives? I don’t know those things. When was that unbreakable foundation laid down in their lives? I don’t have that. I found myself longing to become a better, more knowledgeable Christian in those moments and hopeful that the stirring in my soul would be satisfied by the work I am now determined to do in my spiritual life.
The stirring for me began months, or maybe years ago, but I didn’t recognize it for a long time. It is hard to recognize someone who was just an occassional guest in my past when He first began knocking at my door. And since I was taught never to open the door to strangers, I have been reluctant to open my life to God. Doubts often make me think thoughts like “how could people possibly trust that He can truly lighten their load if they cast their burdens upon him?” and “is it ever actually possible to give ‘it’ to God (whatever ‘it’ might be) in a way that He won’t later return it to me bigger than it was to begin with?”. How did these wise women know they could trust Him? Had they never been deceived before the way I have been in my life? That must have been the case, right? Or were they all just putting on their Sunday best and going through the motions without really believing any of it themselves?
The tricky thing about doubt is that it quickly begins to challenge even the things you know to be true once you let it take root in your life. So why not open up to the possibilities of God’s grace the way He has opened such interesting doors for me recently, and in the way that these women had shown me to be open through their genuine personal stories of struggle? Just then as I listened to more stories and more conversations, I began to realize that I was not the only woman there who had doubts. Perhaps the others doubted in different ways, but they too had doubts and insecurities and fears that they are working to overcome.
You know those moments where things just seem to work out exactly as they were meant to? In the past I had thought that was just good luck or convenient timing. What do you think in those moments? I have come to believe through a blessed weekend of wise women and prayer warriors working to fulfill their unique purpose, that I have been ever so gently God-smacked.
But now what? I am not so spiritually deficient that I think I can just sit back quietly and allow God to work miracles in my life. You see, I have tried that before and am still waiting for those miracles to be delivered. Nope, I am fully aware that this is the beginning of a journey where I will need to be an active participant, lay aside my doubts and fears, and step faithfully into my future. This future will place God in a starring role, hopefully with the voice of James Earl Jones to give it that extra gravity and profoundness so I know exactly when to pay attention. And in this future, I will not be worried about when to pray or how to talk to God because I will know there is no wrong way to do it. And I will discover for myself the best ways to apply God’s word to my life through studying and experiencing His teachings first hand. I will no longer have to wonder what it could possibly feel like to lighten my load of burdens because I will know. And amidst the beautifully broken cast of characters in my life, I just may be able to help point someone else toward the healing that I seek. After all, every trip is better when shared with others.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,who gives generously to all without finding fault,and it will be given to you.”James 1:5 (NIV)