So, this Friday I skipped down to San Antonio with my new totally delightful friend Karen to check out the Women of Faith conference, a conference just about every woman on earth has attended at some point in the last twenty years.
It’s weird that I go to so many conferences because I am not what you’d call a conference person. Primarily, I don’t socialize with strangers. Secondarily, I don’t like experiences to be too “packaged.” Practically every conference encourages the first and accomplishes the second.
Still, I’ve learned that just because conferences can be corny, cliche, slick or infringing on my sense of personal space does not mean I should completely avoid them.
Women of Faith was full of corny, cliche, and slick. BUT, I really enjoyed it.
People my age and younger are disinclined to like things. We think of it as good taste and discernment.
We believe that if too many people think something or someone is good, it/she couldn’t possibly be. We are always on the hunt for the thing that’s cool before it’s cool because once it’s cool it’s not cool.
We, as a group, stereotypically dislike:
- Anything that made a lot of money (Two and a Half Men, John Grisham’s latest book, Snuggies)
- Anything our parents think is great (George Bush, Oprah, dressing up for church)
- Anything more than 1,500 people have viewed on YouTube
- Anything we think of as inauthentic or manufactured (chain restaurants, top 40, Jesus fish)
We are a people who do not recklessly “like” every facebook status or blog post we encounter. We first decide what “liking” said post will communicate about who we are.
It’s a sickness, really.
A few years ago I became very convicted of my too-cool-ness. I realized I’d been writing off people, experiences, places, you-name-it, because they fell outside my strict coolness parameters. I realized I’d severely limited the voices speaking into my life. Like Solomon’s son Rehoboam, I’d elevated the influence of my peers at the expense of popular opinion and true wisdom.
My prayer for the last year has been, “God, help me believe the best.” I pray it when a new friend recommends a song by an artist I’m eager to pre-judge as shallow. I pray it when I’m given a book I wouldn’t usually consider reading. I pray it when I meet someone and everything about them screams “not like me,” believing that difference can be good.
And (surprise!) it has been. I found out I love Stephen Curtis Chapman, not everything he sings, but a lot. For some reason I thought he was hopelessly corny, but looking back, I can’t think of a single reason why I might have formed that impression.
I read Heaven is For Real, an incredibly popular book about a little boy who “goes to Heaven.” Unlikely as I am to pick up any book on a best-sellers list, I felt especially skeptical of this one. When a friend gave it to me as a gift, I prayed and read with an open heart. I liked it. I don’t know that I believe all of it. But I found valuable truth in it.
I even started reading the inspirational quotes people post on facebook or their Tumblr blog, the ones people make into little word pictures. Some of them have been lovely. Some true. I’ve made a point of clicking “like” (or <3) every time I like something. I want to be generous with my likes.
Most recently in my believe the best quest, I attended Women of Faith, a conference clearly created for the woman who likes pink and lime green and probably monograms (I'm so not girly enough for women's conferences). And, you know what, it was good. Great music (LOVED Amy Grant). Really energetic and frequently inspiring/challenging speakers. I took notes like I always do and realized at the end of the day I had three pages worth of relevant, helpful truth.
I’m realizing epiphany by epiphany that being too-cool makes the world small and that believing the best makes it big. When I believe the best I love more people. I listen to more music. I read more books. And, while I find plenty that’s fake, superficial, or empty, I also find more truth.
I wonder what Jennifer at her coolest would have thought about the Women of Faith conference, and I’m disappointed at all she would have missed, distracted by the tween-inspired logo, swaths of people in glitter cross t-shirts and audience-participation-required Zumba.
Cause, let’s be honest, the Zumba was fun.