So I stepped off a plane in the U.S. mid to end of September and then made my way toward Austin, TX. Without really knowing why or plumbing the depths of it, I had felt a magnetic pull to get myself to the States to attend Idea Camp/Human Care the moment I read about it on Jen Hatmaker's blog (which I present to you because if you don't know about it and you like to laugh while you love Jesus and ask hard questions, you should). I had already been trying to get to New Orleans in early October so this opportunity sealed the deal. I jumped on it and what developed was a month long whirl wind tour of the States for which I left my husband and five children behind in our mountain mission post caring for a 37 week pregnant woman and her four year old (a story for another day). I told you, there was not much in-depth forethought here...a blowing of the Spirit, a tongue of fire, and BAM I was off.
It wasn't really until I woke up the morning of the first day of Idea Camp in my friend Nickie's house that I started to question myself. First of all, my most wonderful hostess allowed me to prevail upon her and her family even though we had only reconnected since high school on Facebook. She jumped to open her home to me when I zipped off a message saying. "Um, if I randomly come to Austin in September to go to this thing (insert Idea Camp link), can you provide me food, lodging and transportation for free?" Because she's a good girl and she loves Jesus and a NOLA girl so loves company, she was all, "YES!"
But I woke up on Friday morning to get dressed and await the ride she had arranged for me with a neighborhood friend and had a moment AKA freak out. What the heck was I doing? My family was far away, my husband holding the home front and ministry fort, while I was about to head to some hybrid conference/conversation thing with people I did not know to meet other people I did not know who did really awesome things I did know about. And all I could think was 1. I'm way out of my league and 2. Don't genuflect and make the Sign of the Cross when you get in the pew at that Church because you are totally going to creep these people out.
You see, I was pretty sure that I was going to be the only Catholic girl at this rodeo (That's a Texas reference, get it?) And that freaked me out because...well, I don't really know why. I think it's because I really do not care. I feel comfortable, inspired and hopeful about the future around Jesus-lovers and world-changers of all sorts. But I am never quite sure if that feeling will be reciprocated. I feel like I have to awkwardly work the fact that I am Catholic into the first line of every conversation to allow people the opportunity to walk away from me if they like. So I did. And they didn't. Not one person walked away.
What I found was a space where there was a unique commonality among those gathered. It went way beyond our antiquated "we all love the same Jesus" platitude (which by the way does nothing to cross ecumenical bounds and reach out to our deepest common places and is really just kind of dumb). It took me a while to figure out what it was that was there.
There was a van ride where two women became my instant friends. There was praise and worship that just felt right. There was a room and a conversation where I felt confident that I had something worthwhile to say. There was the lady who slipped into the pew beside me and then it turned out calls Costa Rica her second home. There was excitement about the work we are doing, and ideas and thoughts and offers for collaboration. There was lunch where we broke every health code and walked straight through the kitchen to our table. And where smart women had insightful conversation.
And that was all really, really cool. But it wasn't quite the heart of the matter. There was something deep happening in the hearts of the people I watched and listened to and talked with and prayed with over those two days. Something that bound us together differently than I had found myself bound to a group of people before. I heard in their voices, sensed it in their countenance, watched it glisten in their tears. We were not made brothers and sisters by some vague same Jesus we believed in.
If you heard the conversations that took place in that space out of context and without being surrounded by that atmosphere, you would have likely though the lot of us crazy. We cried and we were angry and we were disappointed and we were confused and we felt like we had no answers. Yet we were hopeful and we were brave and we were raw and we were in the fight. And we had been broken. Fallen in love with a real God who did the hardest thing for us, broke Himself wide open. And who had in turn sent us into the world with bleeding hearts that had broken for the least of His people. And we stood there together with the pieces in our hands and wondered what came next. We shared a common depravity.
And in that broken, depraved place where we admitted that we had fewer answers than we ever thought we could and that when we really were honest we knew less now than when we started, there was a new hope born. A hope that in admitting to our common depravity we could find ways to help each other keep being brave, keep asking hard questions, keep walking through the muck and the mud of relationships and Church and Christianity and charity and what the heck does it all mean. That the blind leading the blind often find their way in the dark faster than those who think they see and so need no one.
I left that space a little timid to face the world again. There was something so, so nice about being a mess among messes and knowing it was good. And knowing that even after we had quietly admitted to our common depravity in that space, we would take the pieces of our hearts, go back out into the great wide broken world and dig in again. Do the hard stuff. Ask each other questions. Invite one another into our craziness. It framed the entire rest of my time in the States. It changed me. It gave me new friends. Friends who love my Jesus, but not only that, love Him to that point of broken wide, messy crazy. Friends with whom I share a common depravity.
I have made many friends in the last couple of years with whom I do not share denomination. And yet I am drawn deeply to them in so many ways. This is my final explanation of what it is that draws me. It may not make sense to you. That probably just means you're not crazy. Yet.