I wasn’t sure what to expect at IF: Gathering.
Was I going to have to actually TALK?!
To people I don’t know?
And open up?
Did I have to share my feelings?
These things give me a little anxiety...
IF:Gathering was a little different than any other event I’ve been to. We live-streamed teachings throughout the day from the main event happening in Austin, but had our own intimate worship, discussions and fellowship. It was very low-key and impactful at the same time.
If you’re a woman, or know a woman in any way, you might have a clue that most of us are pretty hard on ourselves. Spiritually, physically, intellectually - you name it.
Personally (and I’m sure I’m not alone), I have some twisted need to be the “best” friend/wife/sister/daughter/worker/mom of all time and still have time to read a book every month and have quality time with God every day.
Sometimes, it’s really difficult to pull myself out of the pressures I put on myself to just be still, especially after a busy day.
For example, I was part of the planning, decorating and worship teams for IF:Gathering and also part of worship for church Sunday morning, working my real job in the meantime and expecting to relax and enjoy this event.
Sitting still to focus and absorb just doesn’t come naturally.
But, I walked away from the weekend feeling charged, because the IF:Gathering simply spoke to women… ALL women, in all stages.
I have been asking women who attended to share their thoughts and favorite moments from the weekend and surprisingly, no responses have been quite the same. We are all different – we learn differently, think differently and have different experiences to relate to each other – so, why would our take-aways be the same?
I know the fact that everyone is different is no exciting revelation – of course we are different! But, I think we forget sometimes. We compare ourselves – we forget to give grace and open up to people because they may not relate with us, and that can keep us from being disciples.
The IF:Gathering reminded me of that, and the one giant similarity that God loves us and wants to use us, together.
There were several power-house women (and a couple men) who spoke with their own flair, which kept the days moving, with zero dull moments.
Jo Saxton was the first (hilarious) speaker, and she spoke to the self-doubt that sneaks into us.
We laughed pretty hard as she demonstrated how she views herself in the mirror – with confidence on some days, or in total need of her “spiritual spanx,” on others.
Ultimately, she reminded us that Jesus is our Redeemer, who restores our purpose – we don’t need to have a tight “spiritual core,” or have it all together before we live for God – that time is now.
“In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory.” – Ephesians 1:11-12
Probably the most terrifying moment of the weekend was Friday night, when IF:Gathering Founder, Jennie Allen told us we were going to openly confess our sins.
She was going to state a sin and we would hold up our lighted cell phones, to own up to that sin, for all to see….. Seriously? I think all our eyes popped out of our heads.
Kelly Quarando admits this was the area she was nervous about. Before the event, she thought, “should we skip this part?”
But, something happened. God moved. Cell phones went up and women openly confessed.
One of the favorite speakers from IF:Gathering was easily Angie Smith. She wasn’t “supposed” to talk this weekend, but I think we are all glad she did.
She discussed things I had personally never heard before and it kind of blew me away. She talked about the first two questions in the Bible: “Are you sure?” (God has your best interest), and God asking, “Where are you?” (referring to our heart). These giant questions left us seriously silent in thought.
Angie also went into Genesis 22, when Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac. In Genesis 22:8, as they’re walking up the mountain, Abraham tells Isaac “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.” Then, in Genesis 22:13, “Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by it’s horns” to sacrifice. Angie pointed out that God promised a lamb, but they received a ram.
But, 2,000 years later, this was the place where Christ was crucified – HE was the promised lamb.
As we are all so different, there is something truly intimate in understanding what God has lead another person through. The IF:Gathering highlighted that we all have different stories, but that does not keep us from relating to each other, encouraging one another and making disciples.
Two women were introduced on the screen with some scary-real stories. Larissa’s husband, Ian, was in a car accident 10 years ago, when they were just dating and now has permanent brain damage. Katherine suddenly had a massive stroke, crippling her for the rest of her life.
These women talked about their real-life, HUGE, daily struggles, yet you can actually see their immense faith in the Lord and bright, open perspectives in sharing their faith and connecting with people.
You know the phrase that sums up comparing ourselves to others - “the grass is always greener on the other side”? – Katherine’s response was, “We’re not worried about other people’s grass – we got our own grass!” – queue the cry-laugh. So refreshing.
According to literally everyone I talked to, hands down, one of the most powerful parts of the weekend were the video stories from women in Allen Bible’s own congregation. Three women bravely shared their testimonies and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
We sat at round tables of about 8 people each. A few times throughout the weekend, we would stop and read questions from “Conversation Cards” on the table. Questions like “What do you want to get out of this weekend?” and “How have you seen God work in your life in the past year?” – questions that forced us to get to know one another.
Remember that anxiety I mentioned earlier? Totally there. But, I shared, we all talked, and it was good. God is good.
Really, the single most influential result from the IF:Gathering is our future. David Platt challenged us, “When will the idea of unreached people in this world become completely intolerable to the church?” – Think about that for a minute.
I invited my mom to this event and it has been awesome to hear her go on and on about what she soaked up from the IF:Gathering.
I think we all feel a little more equipped after IF:Gathering, just from understanding we don’t need to be the “best” friend/wife/sister/daughter/worker/mom of all time before we make disciples – what are we waiting for?