A little over a month ago, I got a very strange email. Strange for me, anyway. It was from a woman named Shannon and she worked for LifeWay. Shannon was inviting me to be one of LifeWay's guest bloggers at a women's event in Alabama, called the dotMom Conference. Me.
A guest of LifeWay.
The same Southern Baptist Convention-LifeWay who notoriously took The Blindside off their shelves.
It didn't make sense to me either. I've actually had a few good laughs about the whole thing, to be honest.
But, it grabbed my attention. They knew I was a blogger. They had read my stuff. They knew about A Deeper Story and its tendency to make waves. They've seen my tweets... yes, even the political ones. Despite all of the material that was at odds with LifeWay's target market (of which I'm not a member), they invited me anyway.
Maybe they saw something that I didn't?
Puzzled and curious, I kept my vow to my Year of Yes and accepted the invitation to fly to Birmingham this weekend.
First of all, traveling from the Pacific Northwest (the birthplace of grunge, hipsters and all shades of cynicism) to Birmingham, Alabama (home of SEC football, shrimp & grits and smocked children's clothing) was an adventure in itself. It's kind of like traveling to an alternate universe... and I don't really mean that sarcastically. I'm being quite serious. I was plucked out of the forest and into the south... accents, cowboy boots and pearl necklaces galore. I was wide-eyed, and this is coming from a girl who grew up in both Texas and North Carolina. Alabama is a whole different kind of Southern.
Second, I'd like to address the elephant in the room: My overwhelming, glaring sarcasm and bitterness towards women's events like the one I was invited to attend.
I'm going to get really honest and confess to you: when the conference started, I walked into the big event hall and absolutely could NOT suppress rolling my eyes. It was the whole production - flashy stage lights, multiple big screens, the beautifully trendy worship leader, an exhibition hall filled with Christian apparel, home items and books. My blood pressure rose and I realized I needed to pull it together or things were going to go sour. I sent SOS text messages to my husband and a few close girlfriends, asking them to pray that I'd be able to pull my head out of my ass, enjoy the conference, and maybe even learn something.
The first session started and Jen Hatmaker took the stage with her wild curly hair, lacy dress and cowboy boots. She immediately started talking about being a bit of a hands-off mom and she showed us a video of her boys riding a boogie board down the stairs and crash landing at the bottom - a video that she filmed in which you can hear her laughing in the background. I loved her immediately & I could feel my heart turn. She spoke so much truth and wisdom in a mere 45 minutes, I simply could not write or type fast enough. She finished and I sighed a big heavy breath and I could start to feel the dark cloud of cynicism lift.
I left the session a bit early and perused the aisles of retail across the hall. I wondered, if Jesus were here, would He flip the tables over? I stopped, munched on some chocolate and had a lovely time catching up with Saul from DaySpring, him telling me how much he loves reading A Deeper Story. I bought a cute $10 scarf before turning the corner.
The evening session started a few hours later and I sat quietly in my seat. I looked around and found women caught deep in the moment of worship. I found women furiously taking notes. I felt ashamed for judging them, for judging conferences and events like these. Through my own cracked, jaded lenses, I have refused to see that there is so much value in weekends like these. Some women NEED events like this.
I realized that many of these women probably don't get this opportunity very often - hearing women read Scripture, deliver messages & pray from the pulpit, or lead worship. It's a gift to look up at the stage and see a woman with her Bible open, hands spread wide above her head, declaring God's Truth into a packed room of 1,100 people. The reality of that gift is not lost on me - but I have taken it for granted.
I'm telling you these things because I need you to know that I'm trying hard to live in the tension. I'm trying hard to be gracious. I'm trying hard to broaden my perspective and reach the understanding that I don't have the corner on how women should connect with God, or the corner on how Christian businesses should operate, or the corner on how Scripture should be used.
Chances are, if you're a cynic like me, you have an appreciation for a good sense of humor. I'll have you know, from personal experience, that God's sense of humor is impeccable.
I'm telling you these things because there might something lurking behind your own curtain of cynicism & self-righteousness that will surprise you, change you and open your eyes a little wider to the way He works among His people. For me it was a trip to Alabama to meet with a company owned by Southern Baptists, to attend a big-production mom's conference. Of all things in the world, God chose that for me.
What is it for you?