A Hutchmoot Memory

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One of the most meaningful moments at Hutchmoot 2010 happened before the event officially began. There we were, huddled in small, safe groups, smelling freshly delivered pizza, holding tightly to the backs of cushy chairs in order to avoid tripping over ourselves. The tension was palpable, at least it was for me. Many of us were meeting for the first time. Some of us had been driving in anticipation for most of the morning. Still others of us were wondering if anyone would notice our absence should we choose to go and hide in the bathroom. “Us” is the group of people, writers, speakers, cooks, organizers, and performers, who worked that weekend to make everything happen. I was scared and nervous. I wanted people to like me. I worried over what to wear, and what I would talk about, and if anyone would even talk to me.

We had all looked forward to the day for so long, and it had finally come. Would everything work out like we had planned? Would our participants have a great time? Would it all turn out to be a colossal mistake? But most of all, this group of people who normally took its time when communicating, was now forced into impromptu, off the cuff, conversation. No deleting lines and backspacing over misspellings now. If you couldn’t think of the right words to say, you might have to sit silently, awkwardly. And your awkwardness might cause you to miss out on communicating face to face with the very people you’ve dreamed of speaking with for months.

Thankfully, there was the aforementioned pizza to help break the ice. So we all loaded our plates and filled our cups with carbonated, caffeinated beverages–ice cold, liquid courage for this Christian conservative introvert.

Finally, Andrew Peterson asked everyone to sit in a circle. He got out his guitar and we all held hands as he sang kumbayah and everything was magically different. We were all greatly at ease and ready for anything. No, that’s not what happened at all, though we did gather semi-circle-like on the comfy furniture. There was a lot of “no, you sit there” met with “please, I insist,” and then we took turns introducing ourselves to the group. I hated this part immensely, and felt like I could not have made a worse impression had I turned up in a three-piece power suit and six inch heels.

But it’s all because I’d only been thinking about me, me, me. What will I say? How will I act? How will I be seen? And then, prompted by AP, Russ Ramsey put on his pastor hat and we donned our church faces as he told us a little story about how he had lost a dear friend earlier that week, about how he couldn’t stop thinking of his friend’s first moments in heaven. About how the black and white must have suddenly become color, how the spiritual, heavenly realm had turned into the real world and the two-dimensional stick man was transformed into undeniable 3-D. I’ll admit I got a little teary-eyed as the metaphor took on new meaning for this group of formerly square profile pictures lately changed into fleshy human shapes and steadily beating hearts. But what happened during the next twenty minutes is what truly changed my heart and my outlook for the weekend. We bowed our heads for prayer.

Not everyone spoke aloud, but those who did openly shared their hearts with the group and with God. And the desires they expressed were not about how they wanted to say memorable things and teach great lessons on art. They simply prayed for the people who were on their way to this crazy event. They asked for humility and the ability to serve. They prayed for those who were coming to be blessed and comforted by the weekend, by their stay, and by God’s presence. They prayed that everyone would feel at home, that no one would be left out or feel small, and for the love of Jesus himself to be on display, predominant above everything else about to take place. Let Christ’s love be felt and shared in everything we do and say. In Jesus name we prayed, Amen.

And in that holy time I saw inside the hearts of the men and women surrounding me, and I remembered the original reason I wanted to be a part of this community. It’s the reason I’ll keep writing as long as they’ll let me and the reason I’ll keep reading posts and buying products and attending events created by its many various members. That reason is love. Love of art, love of man, but most of all, love of Love himself.

When the prayer was over, I got to go and sit behind the registration desk for a few hours as attendees trickled in and fragrances from the kitchen wafted up the stairs. Getting to talk one on one with Sarah Clarskon and Jennifer Trafton really helped me settle in behind the scenes of Hutchmoot, and though I continued to have awkward moments and intimidated feelings during the weekend, none of them were caused by anything outside my own noisy head. Everyone I encountered was gracious and understanding. It’s true, there are those of us wallflowers who will always hold some measure of reserve and unevenness, and it’s all too easy to let those internal storms ruin the sunshine of a beautiful afternoon. I can’t speak for the extroverts out there as to what steals the warmth of a room from them, but I believe the cure is the same for both groups: loving the person beside you.

Long live the Rabbit Room, and may we all have many happy returns to Hutchmoot!


24 Comments

  1. Nick and Susan

    That was beautiful to read. That’s three times in the past few days I’ve been bought to tears by the words of a fellow Rabbit Roomer.

    It’s unlikely I’ll ever get to go to Hutchmoot, but reading everyone’s thoughts moves me immensely and makes me feel a little less alone. We all know that C.S. Lewis quote so well, ‘We read to know we are not alone’, and it is no less true of this place.

    Susan

  2. EmmaJ

    “That reason is love. Love of art, love of man, but most of all, love of Love himself.”

    “…I believe the cure is the same for both groups: loving the person beside you.”

    Hear, hear! So true.

  3. Jaclyn

    Janna! My brother and I were possibly the very last 2 to register, and I felt exactly like you did… up until I stepped up to the registration table and felt immediately welcomed and at home. Thank you!

    You’re right–It’s a frightening thing, speaking out there in the open without the security of a Backspace button. Loving each other in person is just so worth it.

  4. S.D. Smith

    So true, Janna. Well done. That meeting did seem to set the tone. AP is, as Russ said, a gatherer. And he humbly focused the attention where it belonged. It was a first taste of welcome that grew all weekend.

    It’s so good to be able to say: I don’t just know who John and Janna Barber are, I know them. And they did not cut my hair, but are swell people and we’re on the same team.

  5. Larry Yarborough

    Janna,

    I most resonate with your openness in the first few paragraphs about about “… me, me, me…” I’ve been wrestling recently with something brand new in my own awareness: how do I get over this self-obsession with me and become absorbed in Christ’s love, adoration, grace and mercy in the midst of my humanness.

    Though it was not the focus of your post, I thank you for sharing it. It’s nice not to be alone.
    LY

  6. Leanne

    Janna, you captured a lot of how I felt going to Hutchmoot last year too. The anxiety and curiosity and the wonderful experience of grace and acceptance and like-mindedness. And even though I’m not sure we officially met at Hutchmoot last year, being fb friends and seeing your posts here and following your blog a bit… well, I feel like we could be real friends. I signed Dave and I up again this year and am hopeful for more connections and more community and deeper friendships to develop. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Chris Yokel

    On a Rabbit Room sidenote, I must say that this is one of the rare places where reading the comments on posts is fully half of reading the actual post, and something I look forward. Go read comments on YouTube, then come back here, and you’ll see the difference between darkness and light.

  8. Gary

    “…and though I continued to have awkward moments and intimidated feelings during the weekend, none of them were caused by anything outside my own noisy head.”

    From a fellow introvert this is right on, and brings to mind the Rich song Hard to Get: “I’m reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears, all the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret”. How these “voices” tell me I don’t measure up, and then I lack the courage to engage. But the goodness of God is there in the midst of my (our) stuff, and he brings us to community. “…and so You’ve been here all along I guess, it’s just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get”.

    God is good.

  9. Loren

    This hits close to my heart at the moment as I’ve been longing for this to be the heart and focus of my church recently. There’s been a lot of good intentions by godly people, but I feel like so many are striving to “Do big things for God and then all our problems with be solved,” and they are forgetting we need to humble ourselves before HIm, serve Him wholly, love one another fervently with the love He’s given us (1 Peter 1:22), and then He can do amazing things in bringing the body together in unity rather than uniformity. Seems like everything I’ve been reading and studying lately has been emphasizing this for me and I’ve found I’m in a spot where I have to speak up. It’s a bit scary…but I’m looking forward to what God’s going to do….

  10. Maryanna

    .Janna, I loved this post. I think I’m one of those wallflowers. I came to Hutchmoot just before my second (and last) year of grad school began, and the first year had been full of feeling inadequate and out-of-place and not smart enough. It was wonderful to be among brothers and sisters who took for granted that I belonged among them, even if they had never seen me before. That is not to say that I had continual soul-baring interactions the entire weekend, but I did receive encouragement from one or two conversations and from the general spirit of acceptance, love, and non-judgment that was present there

    And, on a side note, two of the books I read in preparation for/as a result of Hutchmoot, became the books on which I would choose to write my capstone project (basically Master’s thesis, only a little shorter), under the direction of a brilliant and renowned professor who loves C. S. Lewis at least as much as I do. I think it was one of those many-roads-we-took-to-get-here things–God knew what He was doing.

  11. Janna

    Thanks everyone for reading, and for your kind comments — they really encourage me. I am equally grateful to have met some of you and look forward to getting to know the rest of you better at this year’s moot.
    For those who haven’t been able to come yet, don’t lose heart! You’ll get there when you’re supposed to. Until then, keep an eye on tour dates near you from any of the Square Peg artists, or any one else you’ve heard about in the RR. (Our rule in college, at a small town in Arkansas, was that if your favorite artist was playing less than 6 hours away, it was worth the drive!) And after the show, go up and introduce yourself, introvert and extrovert alike. You’ll be glad you did!

  12. Deb

    This post has so encouraged me – thank you Janna for your beautiful transparency and grace! My husband and I have signed up to attend Hutchmoot this year and are faithful readers, but rarely enter into the discussion. The idea of being in the same room with you people is both exciting and terrifying. Insecurity threatens to undo me and yet the thought of being present for this gathering brings a hope that lends courage. (that and the fact that we’ve purchased non-refundable plane tickets)

    I sense here a community of grace, kindred spirits extending a gentle welcome -dare we dream? Still, I’ll most likely try to lose a few pounds, whiten my teeth and get a bit of a tan before coming
    🙂

  13. Sarah

    This is beautiful, Janna. And so true! I remember the tension too, and the great grace and relief of finding that friendship comes quickly with RR folk. You have so clearly expressed what is the gift of the RR and the Hutchmoot time – love. Art and faith and music and beauty yes, but all of it informed by and steeped in love of God and each other. I love the way you saw that and described it here.

    Oh, and hanging out with you at the registration table that first afternoon put me right at my ease for the rest of the weekend!

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