Last weekend I made the trek to one of my favorite “loved words” places, the annual gathering of delightful people of the Rabbit Room which is known as Hutchmoot.
Confession time. Ready? Here it is: Hutchmoot was not 100% super fun for me this year.
In previous years, the weekend has been a sweet time of refuge from my insecurities and fears, a time when I find myself able to shout down the critical voices in my head and feel encouraged and affirmed, and a time to just listen to good words and music and smile a lot and cry some happy tears. But this year, there were some sad tears. My insecurities and fears had snuck into my suitcase and followed me all the way to Nashville, and I was surprised and angry to discover those uninvited stowaways, invading my safe place. It threw me off guard. My defenses were down, and I started to listen to their voices. “Look at [insert name of awesome person here]. Pshh. Yeah. You are nothing.” Not only did I listen, I began to scold myself for listening. I’m a champion scolder, and friends, it’s not a skill that I’d recommend mastering. My internal monologue at many times during the weekend ran like this:
“You’re being stupid.”
“For heavens’ sake, you idiot, don’t lose your cool in the middle of this session when Randall Goodgame is telling a funny story.”
“YOU MUST NOT BE SAD AT HUTCHMOOT.”
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the pink elephant principle? It holds true for me. Someone tells me not to think of a pink elephant, and immediately the room is full of vibrant pachyderms galumphing around, taunting me as I try to make them disappear. Too much of my energy at Hutchmoot this year was spent letting one tear or sniffle sneak through at a time and trying, by force of will, to hold back the rest, because “it’s Hutchmoot,” and “it only comes once a year,” and “Don’t ruin it by being sad, dummy!!!” I was disappointed in myself for falling into the same old sin-traps, for listening to the lies. I knew there was grace to be had, but I was feeling too defeated and ashamed to reach for it.
This is not to say that I was miserable for four days. Thankfully, some of my dearly loved Hutchmoot friends forced grace upon me. They pulled me off to the side and let me cry, told me that God invented tear ducts and therefore it was perfectly acceptable to use them. They reminded me that I am accepted and loved by God and a whole lot of people, they hugged me and prayed with me and gently chastised me when I called myself names. Those actions and words left me able, in many moments, to do what I’ve done at past Hutchmoots; enjoy good conversations, good words, good music, revel in beauty, and smile until my face hurt.
It was on my plane ride home that I started to ponder my experience and allowed a new fear to pop up. What if Hutchmoot 2013 became marked in my mind as “the bad year”? What if I had ruined it with my sadness? What if I wasn’t able to muster up enthusiasm when my parents or friends asked, with an anticipatory smile, “How was Hutchmoot this year?!”
Mercifully, this fear has faded with each day that has passed. Do I need to do some thinking and praying about where those voices and insecurities came from? You betcha. But am I sitting at home in regret and mentally kicking myself for every sad tear shed? No, and thanks be to God for that. AP spoke at a previous Hutchmoot session about the idea that God can redeem memories; He can help us remember good times even when it seems there were none. This is what I am gratefully finding that God is doing with my Hutchmoot weekend. Please don’t misunderstand this to mean that I am just glossing over the sadness and pretending it didn’t happen; I mean that the Lord is doing a work in my heart and protecting me from regret, and that is a huge gift to me. I shouldn’t be surprised; God has again and again redeemed my occasions of insecurity and sin and shown me the truth of these words:
“My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9, Message
My prayer for the future is that when I think of Hutchmoot 2013, what comes to mind will be some tears, but that they will be equally weighted in my mind with ArtMoot, Leif Enger’s sailboat terms, extremely yummy coq au vin, and (yes) Randall’s aliens. Not be a sense of regret, then, but a remembrance of the grace of God.