Last week over 30,000 people flocked to Kansas City for the Onething conference. That conference was the reason I first came to Kansas city back in 2006, but I haven’t been back to one since then. Living in Kansas City this year eliminated a lot of the details a trip to the conference required before – the hotels, food, transportation, etc. We could just hop on a bus and could come home between sessions. And so we joined the throng of people for a good portion of the conference.
Going into the conference this year, I reflected a lot on my first trip to Onething four years ago. That trip became a crucial point in my walk with God. It intensified the revelation (still fresh from my experience in the prayer room that fall) that nothing I could achieve for God was as important as simply spending time with Him and clarified God’s invitation to submit my entire life to Him, to surrender my plans and ambition and seek His will for my life (which resulted in me leaving college as soon as I came home from the conference, a somewhat radical move that shocked my family and friends and started rumors circulating that I’d been brainwashed by a cult). That eight day trip with a large group from ACT also set the foundations for some of my closest friendships in the following years.
Before we left for the conference on Tuesday, I read through some of my old journals from around that first trip. I was struck by how passionate and surrendered I was in that season of my life. The pages are filled with declarations of my love for God, His supreme worth above all else, and my desire to give myself completely to Him. It was convicting, to be honest, because though I’m still following God, even following in ways that some would still call radical, I still cling tighter than ever to my way of doing things, my own plans (though they may be different than the plans I surrendered four years ago).
At the same time, though, as I remembered how God pursued my heart in that season, how He wooed me through the music and the teachings of the conference, I recognize how He’s still wooing and pursuing me in this season, through the garden this summer, through Shelby and the kids in our house, through the quiet moments in the mornings, through the process of making things with my hands, and so many other simple everyday moments. There’s still that invitation to come near, to be awed by Him once again. So although I’m much less enamored with IHOP (International House of Prayer – not pancakes) now than I was four years ago, the call to prayer and meditating in the Lord’s presence hit afresh this time around.
And in some ways, the season we’re in right now is a direct continuation of what God started in my heart four years ago. Near the end of worship that first night of the conference this year, we were singing “I Put On Christ (The Battle is Raging)” by Laura Hackett. There’s a line in the song that says, “Blessed be the Lord my rock, Who trains my hands for battle, trains my hands for war” and as we sang those lines over and over, all I could think of was something Glen Shepherd shared with the Collaborative a couple months ago. He planned to teach us about the cost of revival, both the initial price for revival and the ongoing cost it requires. Though he ended up only speaking briefly (we spent most of the time sharing testimonies of what God was doing in the community instead), what he shared stuck with me. He said that when revival comes – and it will come – there will be thousands of young people looking for home, family, and acceptance with God’s people. Are we ready and willing to open our homes and lives to them, to expand our homes and families to this revival? Are we willing to sacrifice our time, money, respectability, perhaps even cleanliness and safety, to invite them into the kingdom of God? There will be a greater need for this in the church than ever before when revival comes. Perhaps right now, as we wrestle through the day-to-day challenges of living in community and opening our home to new believers, God is training our hands for that battle. Four years ago when I cried out to heaven so fervently for revival, I didn’t have a clue that this would be part of the cost of what I prayed for. Yet here we are. Perhaps God remembers my prayers of surrender to His will much more than I do.