Mercy this is long. Y’all bear with me. I promise I have a point.
It is just like Satan to take a person you admire, your favorite author, a sister in Christ and use her words to cut you and diminish your kingdom work. I am a part of the IF:Gathering because God told me to be. I found IF:Gathering because I was supposed to.
Little more than 6 years ago I bought my first bible study book, it was Girl Talk by Jen Hatmaker and it was the first time I felt like maybe I could actually walk this Christian walk without feeling completely out of place. Reading her words made me feel (a little) less weird because she was also someone who was absolutely imperfect but still following Jesus. It’s funny because I had to find her at that time, in my new walk with Christ where I was just dipping my toe into the water to determine if I was really going to be all in or just kind of keep my Jesus to myself. Because her language in that book was kind of easy for me to digest. It stretched me just the little bit that I was ready for because I was not living life for Jesus at all. If I had first stumbled upon her as Jen Hatmaker, author of 7 or Interrupted, I would have never made it through the first chapter. I would not have been ready. Over the next few years I read a few more of her early books. I devoured Out of the Spin Cycle because I was in a season that felt like a tilt-a-whirl. I was up, I was down, I felt pulled and pushed and altogether in a tailspin. Then years went by without reading anything else Jen. I call her Jen as if we are friends.
I don’t usually remember who wrote the books I love. I will want to share a book love with a friend and I can remember the title but not the author. Strangely though, I remembered who wrote that first bible study book I read… and then the next 3.
Fast forward to fall of 2013. We have moved to Tennessee and I have a deep stirring in my heart that God has placed us here for a specific reason and that I am supposed to be doing something BIG. I walk through my days in tension constantly wondering WHAT it is and WHY I am here. I miss youth ministry but haven’t plugged into it here. My heart is burdened for young women and those who are missing out on the absolute GIFT that is knowing Jesus. I wonder constantly how I can be used to GIVE people Jesus sooner in their lives than I found Him. And I hear Him, I hear God tell me clearly over and over that I am supposed to be telling my story. I have no idea what that means, or how that plays out. So I’m stubbornly not doing it.
One night after couples group, a friend who is a producer looks at me and says, “Do you know who Jen Hatmaker is?” It was like my heart lit up. I said, “Oh my goodness yes. She wrote the first bible study book I ever bought. I love her.”
“Cool,” he says, “Because I got to spend some time in her home for a time filming and you totally remind me of her; your mannerisms, how you speak.”
SHUT THE FRONT DOOR YOU MADE MY NIGHT… To be told that you remind someone of a person you admire? I thought, hmm, I love her words, but I have never even seen her speak. I should check her out online. You see was not really a blogger at that time. I sporadically wrote things and rarely read blogs. I was a book reader, not really a blog reader.
So I looked her up. And her words and her message made me read 7. And she changed me more (because at this point I was a bit more prepared for that kind of radical challenging). And since I was now a person who read blogs, I read this about the IF:Gathering. And my heart began to pound. And I started talking about this thing that I didn’t even really understand. And I drove my husband and my friends CRAZY with all of my excitement. But I knew in my heart we didn’t have the money for me to go to Austin for this conference.
But God knows and loves the desires of our hearts. So one day, I read this.
So now there is not just IF:Austin, there is a gathering of women around our world and I knew God was telling me I was going to gather my people too. But I didn’t. Because that is STILL what I do. I still do not fall on my face every day begging him to allow me to walk in His will – and then actually do it. I was not gathering my people, I was not acting on His call until last week, when He pressed on me over and over and over and He refuted every single excuse I made until I finally said OK. I am going to be a local host. I am going to invite my friends into my home and pray that they come. And God is going to move.
And they came, and HE MOVED.
Christine Caine told us yesterday that wilderness is not freedom it is just deliverance. I have been in wilderness for years. He delivered me from so many things that were trapping me, but I have not been free because I have not been obedient to keep moving out of the stinking wilderness. Christine also taught us that we absolutely have to put aside the weight of opinion and entitlement. Good heavens I have such selfish entitlement to live comfortably, to get all of my things done, to make sure I please all of the people. I have not been performing for and audience of one as Ann Voskamp so eloquently described.
Last night I admitted to my husband that I’m not being obedient because I think I know what God is telling me to do. When I look at the women in leadership at the conference I know deep in my soul that THAT is the thing I want to do. I am supposed to speak, I am supposed to teach. My heart needs to share this Jesus that I love and the Jesus who loves the mess that is me. I need to give him to teenage girls and young women who are lost and unaware that He is literally walking right beside them. And as soon as it was out of my mouth I thought WHAT ON EARTH? I figured he would smile his supportive smile and say well maybe you will. Instead, he said, “That doesn’t surprise me at all. Of course you feel that way. I have told you over and over I know He wants you to do something big.” Blessed man.
So now it was out there. But just out there in the safety of my kitchen with my husband.
And today, in the small group questions, I get these two:
What makes your heart race?
What is God calling you to risk?
So I had to talk about it. I had to tell my girls, “I am sorry but you decided to be here and you are about to hear my secret desire of my heart, and that makes you my people. I should have disclosed it before but you are here and now you are stuck. Hope you don’t laugh at me because I dream a little too big.”
But they didn’t laugh, and some of their stories and heart desires so beautifully complimented mine, and I spent the next few hours still a little whirly in my heart but thinking MAYBE God really is going to use me for this. Because WHO, if not us, would carry this message from the gathering to the young women, so that in 20 years they are not sitting in the same living rooms wrestling with the exact same problems. We kept laughing and saying as Christine Caine did, we need to “Get a New Problem”. I believe the problems of the next generation can be more about actual kingdom work and less about having to deal with the nonsense that we create with all of our division, and drama, and belief of lies of the enemy.
I felt a little inspired. I was excited to hear Jen speak. I knew hearing her would move me, inspire me a little more, after all, she inspired me to gather with my people. So of course Satan stepped in shouted at me the same trash I throw at myself all the time. As Jen’s talk flowed and challenged, and inspired, and convicted us, my mind was assaulted with accusations.
Who do you think you are?
SHE is doing real kingdom work. Your passion is too small.
Teenage girls? How hard is that?
Jen is talking about greater things… you are not up for greater.
Your burden is too easy. Sure your heart breaks for them and for their future,
but they aren’t literally hungry for food.
Your burden is not big enough to worry about. Real Jesus servants feed the
hungry and adopt orphans. You heard Jen. Stop blessing the blessed and
thinking you have done something.
How can you equip the next generation to be world changers if you are not one
yourself? What have you even done that matters?
Teach it or Do it?
You are NOT qualified for anything like this.
My heart hurt, I ached, because I was listening to these lies and actually considering allowing them to paralyze me again.
Until I told my people.
These women who God has literally woven into my life for a reason looked at me and asked of me the darn same questions I posed to our group last night.
If not NOW, When? If not YOU, Who? If not With God, How?
I know it, I believe it. I am getting a new freakin problem. I refuse to allow past failures to keep me bound to this spot. If God says move I am going to move. If Jennie Allen’s dream became the IF:Gathering, my dream can be something real too, because if He called me, He will equip me.
“You must believe the truths of God’s word over the facts of your circumstances.” -Christine Caine
God used Jen Hatmaker to introduce me to bible study. God used my friend Kyle to send me back to Jen Hatmaker so I would find about the IF:Gathering. Satan will not use Jen Hatmaker to diminish the kingdom work God has planned for me. Knowing her heart through all she teaches, I am positive she would not allow him to use her for that so I will not allow it either. If God has placed something on your heart, don’t keep it inside. Tell your people, allow them to hear you, to feel your burdens. Then believe them when they remind you God does not call only those who are already equipped. He will equip the called.