To try and talk about STORY somehow seems like a desecration of the holy time that it was. I almost feel like it’s one of those things I should keep private about, but I also know what a source of hope this would have been for me to read about it at a different point in my life. I know this will give me hope later on in the dry spells.
What made the experience so special wasn’t listening to Bob Goff tell stories about living an extravagantly loving life. It wasn’t Erwin’s inspiring ‘you can create the future’ talk. It wasn’t hearing the advice over and over again that creating is hard work, messy work, that we need to do it for God alone. That businesses will rise and fall, names will be come famous and infamous and maybe we will never know how our work will affect someone. We are to be faithful to the call. All of that was inspiring and even fun to listen to.
But what made the trip so amazing was listening to my favorite band sing. It was realizing Addie was next to me, falling in love with the beautiful lyrics. Music transcends ourselves and entering the holy space of music and lyrics together was deeply spiritual.
It was spending time with avatars, the beings behind beautiful blog posts and interesting tweets. To sit face to face with people who write and understand the struggle it is, to be inspired by the people who are talking about agents and proposals. To listen to their frustration when it isn’t working out and the process is so much more complicated than we’d think. I just sat there and thought ‘but you’re doing it.” I don’t have to be somebody before I can do something. I already am somebody and I was created to do something.
Sitting for hours with Danielle and her husband and talk about life and theology and feminism…..my heart was so full. I have one friend I talk like that with, but it’s been months since we’ve had time to have a good conversation. That kind of talking is so life-giving.
I sat at lunch and talked with Brenna and had some ignorant and judgmental assumptions completely wiped away as she shared a particular story. This is the power of story. Not listening to speakers necessarily, but listening to each other. There was 15-20 of us there, wandering the hallways, sitting in corners, at tables, and everywhere I went, I found a few people to sit with, to listen and talk. There was no ‘I don’t understand how you can be a feminist.’ No ‘Rachel who?‘ No ‘I don’t understand why that speaker’s statement was offensive.’
And I don’t think you can chalk it up to ‘oh we’re just creative people’, for I’m sure there are some traditionally conservative people who are creative. They are the ones putting out Christian art, the ones who probably would have been upset to hear people clapping and cheering when one speaker said “I believe in God, I don’t know if I believe in Christian art.” Sitting in that space, knowing I was with people who understood……well, that was simply the best. To be heard and understood, to be able to be with people who were just as sad about Rob Bell being gone from Mars Hill, to talk about how to make a living from writing, to walk around and see booths devoted to fair trade coffee and micro loans, to be able to roll my eyes at the Lifeway stand and not have to explain………..it was just such a gift.
I felt like I could be myself, that I was with people who were like myself, and there was no explanation or qualifications needed. I had been really nervous about going, but once I was there, and we were all there, sitting on the floor, talking, trying to bring our real selves to our internet images…..the nerves fled and it was simply grace, in the truest sense of the word.
I’ve only been writing for a few months, but that didn’t matter. When you are with people who get you, your statistics and sales and struggles don’t matter. When I started a blog to create a ‘platform’, I thought it was going to be a very impersonal act. I didn’t know that a twitter list would turn into real friends. I didn’t know that I would bond with people over duck confit and mango sangria. I didn’t know that I would be sharing my story in a car while the rain came down and the Chicago skyline was beauty in the fog. I certainly didn’t expect that I would be swearing away as I drove Rachel to her hotel.
But now I know. These words we type are a fragment of who we are. And they are beautiful and inspiring and they connect us to each other. But the people behind the screen are even more beautiful and inspiring, and to connect with each other is story made alive.