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!