1) We want a new diet. There are a lot of women hungry for the words of scripture. These women don’t want to settle for, as Kathy Keller so aptly put it, “preprocessed soul junk food” devotionals that are little more than the “Christian version of a horoscope.” We hunger and thirst for the original story and we want to see our place in the arc of redemptive history. We want to hear more about God and less about ourselves.
The irony of the conference is that there was an amply stocked book store with drastically reduced prices, but the conference only made me more eager to go home and read The Book I already have.
2) We have strong voices. Truly, you should hear a choir of 4000 women praising the Lord. That alone was worth the trip to Florida.
In a figurative sense, I also saw intelligent, capable women willing to fulfill their role in the church and the home, even though it meant sacrificing some ambitions. We may talk openly about wanting to be submissive to our husbands and be willing to fill our role in the church, but we are not passive, uneducated, or naive. I met women with advanced degrees who were pouring their heart, soul, minds, and strength into their ministry both as mothers/sisters/wives/friends and as women of the church. Believe me when I say these women are incredibly smart.
Tim Keller recalled a time when he heard Elisabeth Elliott get up in front of a crowd of pastors and tell them she had better gifts for being a pastor than most of them. Kathy Keller recalls this incident in her book Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles, saying that Elliott explained to the students at Gordon-Conwell Seminary that she knew the Bible in multiple languages, had vast experience expositing it, had the maturity brought through suffering to speak with compassion to others and on and on. “However, God has not called me, as a woman, to exercise those gifts in a pastoral role. I am called to use them, but why should they only be valuable if used in one particular role?” Tim Keller said he believed her and has spent the rest of his life trying to be as good a preacher as Elisabeth Elliott would have been.
These are women who are capable and intelligent and remarkable and yet they trust God enough to believe his way of ordering things is correct, even when it is counter-cultural (sometimes embarrassingly so.) They simply do not conform to the pattern of this world (Rom. 12:2): They are nothing like they are caricatured to be and they are nothing like the culture encourages them to be.
3) We love words. Pretty much every person I met there considers herself a reader. And many were writers or had thought of becoming writers. The sessions I went to that were about reading and writing were always full. And you already know the internet is full of an army of Christian mommy bloggers. This was a pretty specific demographic of the population, so there is probably a higher-than-typical number of intellectual types at this conference.
But I guess I thought I loved words more than the average girl when I got my degree to teach English. It was humbling at the end of my weekend there to realize that I was one of MANY women who consider themselves avid readers and writers (and many put me to shame with both the quantity and quality of their reading and writing lives!)
It was also humbling to be reminded that “When there are many words, sin is unavoidable” (Prov. 10:19). As a person who presumes to blog about myself and my faith, I became more conscious than ever that I am a multiplier of words.
4) We are unafraid… because of whom we fear. As Paige Brown said “Fear is the only proper response to the theological reality of God.” Because we fear Him above all else, we are motivated to do what we would never and could never otherwise do. Because we fear Him, we can abandon our insecurities because our reputation is secure in Christ. Because we fear Him, we can forget self-promotion because we know God will uphold us. We are preparing to weather the cultural changes, to fortify our families, to preserve and celebrate the word of God.
I’ll admit I was a little scared to go at the last minute because of all the travel details I’d have to negotiate on my own. But when I get there, I was thrilled to see such a wide variety of women–from nursing moms with babes in tow to ladies who knew how to handle a walker on an escalator–who were willing to come from all 50 states and several countries, in groups and on their own (like me!) to hear a weekend conference about an Old Testament story that is skipped over in the average children’s Bible. But I was so glad my earthly fears didn’t keep me away.
5) We are restless. I don’t mean that the women I met were unhappy with their present circumstances and dreaming of a better life. I simply noticed that almost everyone I met was open to new adventures. I met women on the cusp of big moves or career changes. (I am one of them!) I met women who were content with their lives but not desperate to keep things the way they are.
And I can’t really speak for anyone else, but I left the conference feeling like I wanted to keep moving. Keep improving. I have a lot to learn and a long way to go.