The Truth About Hutchmoot

By

[Editor’s Note: Thank you for the Hutchmoot reactions you’ve all been posting. I’ve tried to read them all and I’ve enjoyed each of them. Alyssa Ramsey sent this to me last night. She’s done a good job of capturing my own thoughts, so I thought I’d post it here. Thanks, Alyssa. –Pete Peterson]

A few days ago I wrote a blog post reflecting on the Hutchmoot weekend. When I finished it and read back over my own words, it was like hoping for an Evie Coates feast but being served Vienna sausages and old socks instead. I had proved Pete Peterson right. At Hutchmoot 2011 he said, “The reader can easily hear the moment you stop telling the truth.”

Those words had nagged at me as I attempted to put the experience into written form. I knew I was not telling the truth—at least not about this year. I was writing what was true a year ago, what I wished were still true, what I thought you would believe.

The truth is, Hutchmoot was a battle for me this year. Not every moment, but some of them. The trouble wasn’t the planning, or the sessions, or the speakers, or the food. It certainly wasn’t the fellowship. It was that I expected you to be Jesus, and you were not.

I want you to know I love you all. Many of you have become friends. And even those of you I haven’t met are brethren to me, dear ones with whom I share the kinship of Christ and rabbits. The time spent in your company was a deep pleasure and our conversations were a delight. But in the quiet moments when I faced my thoughts alone, the enemy assailed me.

You don’t belong here.

You’re a fraud, and they know it.

They don’t want to talk to you, they’re just too polite to walk away.

I sat in on Russ Ramsey’s Friday morning devotion and heard him say, “It doesn’t matter what others think of you. It doesn’t even matter what you think of you. Ultimately, what God thinks of you is all that matters” (from 1 Cor. 4:3-4).

Yes! I thought. I knew it was true. I found momentary comfort in those words. Yet deep down I harbored the suspicion that God’s thoughts toward me needed to be proved by his saints. And so I set you up for failure.

No community of humans can fill a soul’s cavernous longing. They can encourage you, affirm you, support and serve you, and point you toward your purpose. All of this you did. But even the most genuine, loving community will always fail to fill our deepest longings. It must. This is by God’s good design. In his opening remarks, Andrew Peterson read a quote from George MacDonald, part of which said: “In every man there is a loneliness, an inner chamber of peculiar life into which God only can enter.” Community has limits because God will not let his children settle for less than himself.

As far as I understand it, God often uses community to draw us to himself, but never to satisfy us. In many ways it is an avenue through which Christ reveals himself to us. But when it is asked to play a part that only Christ can fill, it becomes an idol. This is true of any community—a homeschool group, a sports team, a Bible study class, a band, a writers’ club, a family. These were never meant to substitute for Jesus, or even to supplement him. They were meant to be a fleshing out of divine character: the mind and body of Christ in action.

It seems to me that the danger is in allowing a community to function as Christ rather than to demonstrate Christ. When we depend on it for our worth rather than letting it simply remind us what we’re already worth in Christ, we’ve stumbled. To ask any community to be our all in all, even unconsciously, is an injustice, a delusion, and a sin.

But God is gracious. Because of his great love, he will allow the communities we idolize to leave us in our insecurities. As Phil Vischer said (if you took notes you can give me the exact quote), God cares far more about owning our hearts than about giving us our dreams—even dreams as small as inclusion and recognition among groups of admirable rabbit-humans.

I haven’t told you this for the fun of a public confession. The thought of you reading it nauseates me. I still feel the need to assure you that when I spoke with you last weekend, my heart was full of love and admiration. That is true. But much of the time, the voices of insecurity and fear nibbled at the back of my mind, until in the post-Moot letdown they came raging to the surface. They roared in my ears as I wrote a dishonest essay.

But louder still, another voice persuaded me that I’m not the only one—that someone besides me has wept more since Hutchmoot than they did during it. That the lies have chased others home as well. That someone else needs to remember that it doesn’t matter what others think of you. It doesn’t even matter what you think of you. Ultimately, what God thinks of you is all that matters.

And what does he think?

That you are the righteousness of God in Christ. Chosen and dearly loved. His radiant bride.
So how did Hutchmoot change me this year? By not filling my deepest longing. By reminding me that no human being, even the most gracious and loving, will ever fill it. By leaving me only one option: Christ.

To my fellow Hutchmooters: I demanded the impossible, and for that I ask your forgiveness. But you were a vessel of Christ’s love and discipline to me, so for that I thank you.

From now on, can we be nothing more to each other than what Christ says we are? Because what we are is enough: fellow travelers, and a holy family, and a royal priesthood.

And Jesus is King.

[Photo by Mark Geil]


31 Comments

  1. Pete Tegeler

    Thanks Alyssa for writing this beautiful reflection. And thanks Pete for posting it. I’ve really been looking back on Hutchmoot and missing it. Perhaps because of the value I put on a gathering like that – a community like that. Missing our time together is not wrong by any means, but this reflection reminded me again of the danger of placing too much value on a gathering like Hutchmoot, or any community for that matter. I’m not saying it as well as Alyssa just did, but when it’s merely scratching you where you itch, you have to wonder, Why is it I itch there? Why is it that I crave voices other than that of Jesus?

  2. Laura

    Alyssa, thanks for this. It’s helping me think through some things. For instance: I think the tendency in my heart is sometimes to do the opposite. I run around all the time thinking “Don’t make an idol of this!” which means that sometimes when people or communities are demonstrating Christ to me I’m not even noticing because I’m building a wall against it, trying to just nip that possibility of even unconscious idolatry in the bud. Argh! How do we find the right balance? Other than lots and lots of humble prayers, I don’t really have an answer there….

  3. Jaclyn

    I know every time I leave a comment here, it’s to effuse delight in having found yet another person who has brought into the light something I have only, until then, felt like a raw gemstone in my dark heart-cave.

    But this, Alyssa– your pickaxe has hit on something that’s been so deeply and thoroughly buried in me, it’s colored the soil of my life and caused the plants to grow all funny.

    It’s exhausting running from activity to activity, community to community, person to person, and wonder why none of them feel adequate. But I’ve kept going. Isn’t that what other people do? Don’t they find their refuge in a best friend, a tight-knit group, a life’s calling? People do, but only if they lack Jesus as their Lord, and Keeper of their eternal home. And also, as you’ve so beautifully pointed out, I do and we do when we are chasing after the others’ voices instead of Jesus’.

    Right now, God has been stripping away so much of what only made me feel partially secure, so that now I feel more insecure and full of anxiety and swinging sadness than ever…

    ..but every once in awhile, for longer and longer, I can finally, truly, rest in my Savior.

    Thanks again, Alyssa, and everyone who’s commented, for your honesty.

  4. Clay Clarkson

    Hutchmoot is better for all of us for your honest reflections. We who have mooted probably all tend to view our time there through carrot-colored glasses, but your corrective lenses put reality in focus. Thank you for trusting us with your heart.

  5. yankeegospelgirl

    Well, I understand very well the feeling of getting yourself worked up and excited, only to be cruelly let down or mistreated by someone you thought of as someone to trust or look up to. But this is a new twist on that—what if you’re treated as well as a group of humans could possibly treat you, and it STILL isn’t enough? It bears thinking about.

  6. Becca

    Golly, Alyssa. I love your big honest heart. Thanks for this post. Even though you had a different HM12 experience than I did, it’s helpful for me to read this.

    So often in Christian circles I feel exactly like what you have described here. Reading this forces me to remember that even when God is giving me a rare drink of community and hope, others nearby might be feeling very lonely. I want to be more sensitive to that in the future — not because I could ever be Jesus, but because I could be a more yielded vessel for His love.

    Also, what you have written is also helpful in taking the edge of potential idolatry. I live in a practical, industrial community, and it’s tempting to view Nashville as some sort of holy land. I need to remember that there are dangers in abundance as well as in lack.

  7. Loren

    The truth will out, and my heart is exposed. Thank you, Alyssa, for speaking truth.

    Last weekend I came to Hutchmoot battling this monster. In the midst of my joy at meeting my online “friends” and discovering true unity in person, there was the temptation and desire that perhaps now that I’d been seen in person I would be known. That now I would be fully accepted and lauded…for what, I don’t know…my own significance? I knew every time I felt it it was a lie, but the battle raged on.

    Then Sunday morning the pastor of the church my sister and I visited spoke about true pride and true humility, and it tied in so completely with themes of the weekend I was again floored by God’s omniscience and sovereignty. I think of pride as something snotty (which doesn’t apply to me, of course!), but the pastor pointed out that the “puffed up” part of pride is the empty shell of a vacuum, sucking, sucking, sucking at everything around it, trying to fill a hole that won’t be filled. True humility, on the other hand, is a solid core filled by Christ. The more we look to Christ, the less we have a longing to be filled because He fills us. He is the groom who stands unnoticed at the front of the church. All eyes are on the bride–and we are that bride. But does the bride look at the audience to see what they think of her? No, her eyes are fixed on the groom, and all her longing and desire is for him.

    Thank you for again pointing me to this truth.

  8. Shannon

    I didn’t attend the Hutchmoot, but I can tell you that your honesty was profoundly important to me in this day. Not post-moot, but post-move. Thank you. Thank you very much.

  9. Amy Whitfield

    Thanks so much for this, Alyssa. This week has been interesting, processing my experience from last weekend– which was very different than prior years. I really appreciate your transparency.

  10. Mark Timmons

    Wow…very encouraging; exactly what I needed, having had similar struggles at Hutchmoot this year. Thank you!

  11. Alyssa

    Your comments just go to show what a remarkable group of people you are. I’m grateful that you are a safe place to air hard truths. Thank you for receiving me gently. And I’m moved to hear from those of you who have similar struggles. God is so good to minister to us through each other.

  12. Melea

    Thank you for this reminder, Alyssa. I’ve never been to Hutchmoot, but what you shared is exactly what I needed to hear: that people, no matter how godly, cannot fill the holes in our heart that were meant to be filled by God.

  13. Aaron

    For all I’ve experienced of community and the ways in which God reveals himself through it, this is an extremely important aspect that I needed to be reminded of. Thanks very much.

  14. Anna Morgan

    Thank you so much. I believe I have now discovered the reason for the void that is constantly within me–I have been relying on community to “function as Christ rather than to demonstrate Christ.” I had never thought of this as idolatry . . . because I still longed for Christ, yet I let everything but him fill that void. I suppose because it was just easier. Thank you again for articulating something I didn’t even know I was feeling.

  15. Brian

    Wow… I haven’t been to a Hutchmoot, but if the Enemy is attacking you, and others who have been to Hutchmoot, like this, that just underscores (to my mind at least) how valuable and powerful Hutchmoot can be, that it would be worth attacking like this.

  16. Julie @ Wife, Mother, Gardener

    Thanks for sharing your struggle, Alyssa. I came to Hutchmoot hearing those same isolating lies, and pretty convinced that they would all be found to be true. Laying those down to Jesus is a moment by moment struggle for me. Praise God that ragamuffins like us were able to relate at all 🙂

  17. Zack

    Wow. My thoughts exactly, but much better written. It is so strange and glorious how God seems to answer the question under the question for me in these sessions and conversations, and that struggle I’m sure I’m the only one having is echoed back from other hearts. We are his, so we are not alone.

  18. Maggie Bowling

    Well well well well said. Bless you for putting your finger on what I was feeling, too.

  19. Sean without an H

    Thanks for your honesty, Alyssa. What you said about holding on to community is also true about leaving it, in my own life right now – I wonder if the Lord is calling me away from where I’ve been and into new things for my family. Sobering and comforting words as we navigate the weirdness of figuring out where we belong in the Body, and whether or not where we’ve been for so long is still the home He has for us. We must hold onto the glimpses we find of Him together, and never get hung up on the circumstances or even infrastructures that led us to those glimpses in the first place.

  20. Jennifer K.

    Just read this again…I’ll keep this close to my heart til October. And after. And I’m printing it out to remind me when I’m feeling un_____. (Anything nice will fit in the blank.)

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