I've thought all day about how to write this post, and I'm still not sure. I think I could write for hours about all the things God taught me and is still teaching me from this weekend's If:Gathering. The teaching was as amazing as I expected, and the worship was better than I could even hope for. But the things that stick with me the most are the ones that happened all around the event.
The story really begins with a "chance" meeting in August with a "random" mom whose son was about to be in the same kindergarten class with my son. From there, she and I ended up in a Moms in Prayer group together. Again, just a "random" moment. Who knows why, but after that very first prayer group, she sent me a FaceBook message that basically said, "I think God wants me to ask you if you know about If and if you might want to help." I didn't even hesitate. I just replied, "yes, I've known about If since they first launched, but I've never done a thing about it. Maybe this is a sign that I'm supposed to."
And all that is true. I initially heard about If on social media over 3 years ago. A lot of the people that I follow started talking about it and from there I started following along on Twitter. Truthfully, I was a little scared of the concept. It involved people from different backgrounds and denominations coming together to wrestle with the question, "If God is real, then what?" I knew what that meant for my own life, but I also know that not everyone's theology is exactly like mine and perhaps hearing from other viewpoints might challenge me a little bit. Yep, I admit it. I was scared that if my beliefs got challenged, I might have to think a little bit or possibly adjust my worldview.
Knowing all this, I'm still a little surprised at how quickly I replied back. I think the main difference between now and when I first learned about If is that I'm now a parent of some kids who don't look like me. That alone with change your worldview. I've also started reading and listening to a few more people who don't always think exactly like me theologically. Sometimes they anger me, but they make me think without offending me. Regardless, I said yes and never looked back.
I figured out this might not be your ordinary "women's conference" way back in October when we had our first meeting. My first clue was when there was no agenda. Just meeting to worship, pray, and see where the Spirit was leading. For this Southern Baptist girl, that was different to say the least. Then those of us who were going to be putting together If:Fayetteville started talking a little more and I was the only Baptist in the room. What?? I mean, we're in Arkansas and it's a women's event.
From that first meeting, the pieces started to fall into place in amazing ways. The first actual planning meeting did involve an agenda (which, I came to find out, is not unusual when you are working with elementary teachers), but it also involved more unbelievable "coincidences." We started the meeting by simply going around the circle and introducing ourselves since very few of us actually knew each other. Someone suggested we not only introduce ourselves, but also tell our personal area of gifting as we went around that circle. I sat in awe as we reached the end of the circle, and almost EVERY AREA OF NEED had been filled. We had gifts of administration, gifts of prayer, gifts of encouragement, gifts of hospitality, and everything else we needed.
From there, I'm sure the details exhausted and stressed out some that had more responsibilities than I did, but I never heard complaining. Instead, I just heard calls for prayer over some specific areas. Need food provided at a reasonable price? Let's pray over that. Weather forecast calls for snow? Let's pray about that (and watch God change the forecast in less than 24 hours time). Need to know who to invite so we won't be the only ones there? Yep. Just pray.
And they came. Almost 200 of them. And they came ready to worship and receive a word. And all along we just kept praying. We prayed for the hurting and for the lonely and we praised God for his providence and provision all along the way.
The weekend was amazing and I hope to never forget some of the words that were spoken directly to me, but my biggest takeaway was this--the body of Christ is beautiful. Regardless of the labels we place on ourselves or the signs on our churches, when we come together, miraculous things can happen. And that's not scary at all.