Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I felt a strange tension between the already and the not yet while gathering together with 3,800 women for the TGC conference. There we were, from all over the world, together. Women, believers, longing to learn in community from the theme, Here Is Our God. Singing together, listening together, laughing together, eating together. It was exciting to talk face to face with women I have communicated with online from places like Dubai, Canada, and Tennessee. Fellow bloggers united as we recognized each other from our pictures plastered all over the internet. And yet, there was also an unsettling, blaring reality that I couldn’t shake. Even though 3,800 Christian women were happy to sing, worship, and learn together, we were still strangers. As we smiled at one another, there was a lacking of intimacy. I felt like I was in a bar as I heard all the usual pick-up lines: “Where are you from?” Or the Christian tailored versions: “What church do you attend?” “Who is your favorite speaker?” And, of course, with some of the workshops or breakfasts I attended, “Do you have a blog?” I know that networking is important for writers, but it is an uncomfortable reality for me. There’s a fine line between pointing others to Christ and self-promotion. I understand that the venue of these conferences is partly set up for published authors to promote their materials, for publishers and universities to advertise, and even for the Coalition itself to promote its own resources. As much as I would like to expand my own viewership to HWT, it’s not like this is my profession. I don’t get paid to blog. So I feel pretty silly trying to network for it. Unfortunately, I witnessed the same high school-party tension where you see people politely enduring a conversation while they were wishing they were talking to someone more important. Even amongst attendees who did not have something to sell, there were these peculiarities. Women arriving an hour early to grab the best seats. “Saving” seats. This also led me to ask myself, “Why are all the speakers sitting in the front? Why aren’t they sprinkled everywhere to get to know those who came to listen to them?” And, “Why are some of the speakers watching many of these messages in the privacy of their hotel room by live-stream, when they encourage us to buy tickets to really see them live?” For the former, I assume they had the same reason I did for picking a seat--they were sitting next to people they knew. It’s not in most our natures to just sit next to a stranger and start talking. It’s a bit uncomfortable. My mom suggested that maybe some were in the privacy of their hotel room to quietly prepare for their own message. Possibly. The thing is, even though most of us women who gathered together had a love for the Lord in common, we were still sinful people who didn’t really know each other. Don Carson pointed out in one of his messages that omniscience is not a communicable attribute of God that we will receive in the new heavens. We will always be learning. This is exciting for me. But as he began to talk about the bride of the lamb, and the special intimacy that we will share as the corporate people of God in Christ, I couldn’t help but think of how that was a missing piece in this gathering of Christian women. Will we automatically know everyone’s name in heaven? Will we need to ask them where they are from? I’m not sure, seeing how we are not going to be all-knowing like God. But I do know that we will be holy, and our memories will not be tainted from sin. I won’t be forgetting any names. And we will have a familiarity with one another as we all will be made perfectly in Christ’s likeness. None of us will have ulterior motives as we joyfully worship and serve our Lord together. In this sense, gathering together at this conference made me long for the future gathering of the bride of the lamb. It also made me appreciate the intimacy shared in my local church. It’s just not something a weekend conference can manufacture—no matter how wonderful it was.