I loved each of the speakers for different reasons and felt that God spoke to me through their words. The premise of this year's conference was "What IF we lived like Jesus?" It's an interesting question, because as I run my own life through that filter, I realize there are many places where it could be adjusted in that light.
As I came home to a wild night with kiddos and a very full Sunday, I still am trying to grasp what all my heart heard. A few things stand out:
1) Water the grass you are standing on.
I've seen and heard this phrase before, but it rang especially true yesterday. My season of life feels stressful and demanding, and it can be very easy for me to entertain thoughts like "in 2 years, things will be better" or "when this thing changes, then I'll be able to do more." Eugene Cho hammered home the idea that following Jesus is ushering in God's kingdom on a daily basis. And there is no time like the present and no place like here. We are not guaranteed anything in the future, and if we don't dig in right where we are, we will be missing it.
Obviously, this is not new info. But, it hit me in a new way. I got a vivid visual in my mind depicting my rather strange looking toes surrounded by luscious green grass. My grass can be green, because I can water it. I can bring more gratitude to the table. I can lower my expectations and rejoice in the good of the reality and the gifts that it brings. Will some days and many moments still be challenging? Yes and yes and yes again. But, with the Lord's work in my life, I can change my perspective and attitude. That is one of the only things I actually have consistent control over.
2) Jesus was straight scandal right out of the gates.
Jen Hatmaker was awesome as always, and I loved hearing her reminder that Jesus flipped things upside down. As humans and in our flesh, none of us want to be on the opposite side of power, sitting outside the city gates. But, that is where Jesus spent all of his time. My mind flashed back to my 2016 words of "living lower", and I realized all over again how against the grain of my heart that really is. I honestly like to be an insider. However, if I'm going to align myself with Jesus - I need to cross some lines, starting in my heart. And with lots of his help.
3) There is no guarantee of the Ram, there is only the promise of the Lamb.
Angie Smith came on, apparently at the last minute, and her honest humility was such a joy to witness. She read and spoke from Genesis 22 when Abraham and Isaac are headed up the mountain together, and Isaac asks where the lamb for the sacrifice is. In verse 8, Abraham replies, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." After Isaac had been bound and Abraham's hand had been stopped by God, Abraham looked in a thicket and saw a ram to sacrifice instead of his son. Abraham called that place, The Lord Will Provide.
I've heard this story more times than I could count, and Angie said she'd read it over and over again, when suddenly she saw something different. Abraham mentioned that God would provide the lamb, but a ram is what showed up for that particular circumstance. It's a beautiful foreshadowing of the Lamb of God who was intended to take away the sins of the world - he's the real promise. And in that case - a ram was provided to save Isaac.
In life - a ram doesn't always show up at the perfect moment. People that we love end up dying, though we have pleaded with God for their healing. Unimaginable suffering that God could have prevented with a well-placed ram is part of our world and lives. We look around in despair and find that things are exactly as bad as we fear, and there is no ram waiting in the thicket to be just what we need.
But though the ram may not come, the Lamb already did. And he's coming again. We have hope in the midst of the suffering. That's the promise, and it has been fulfilled. Thank you, Lord Jesus.
Those are my top three take-aways, and I'm so thankful for the time to listen and be still before the Lord. That is an unfortunate rarity in my world, and I certainly don't take it for granted. Also - John deserves a gigantic shout-out for running the home front in my absence. The kiddos had an awesome time at Bass Pro Shop, a friend's basketball game and eating lunch out - I'm quite certain they didn't miss me with a day like that.