Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A week-end with no masks

I saved money, prayed I'd get the days off, and the day finally came. On this past Thursday morning, I set off for Cambridge, Ohio, where I parked my car, transferred my luggage to a friend's car, and rode with him to the Ridgecrest Conference Center in Black Mountain, North Carolina for the Hope for Wholeness Hope Rising Conference.

  There are people who go to church campgrounds for camp meetings and come away with glowing reports of how wonderful it was to be on a campground for a certain amount of days away from the world and only being around Christians, but they have nothing on me and the week-end I just had.

  Ridgecrest Conference Center is a large facility with several buildings, and is owned by Lifeway Christian Stores. As one might assume, it is a Christian Conference Center. Complete with a chapel, prayer garden, multiple hotel-like buildings to stay in, and several conference centers and rooms, it is a perfect location for a Christian conference.

  I have been to camp meetings before, and have enjoyed some of them, yet there is a big difference in the camp meetings I have been to, and the conference I was just at. And it wasn't the beautiful prayer garden, though  that helped.

 It was the absence of masks, and  the absence of feeling I had to wear one. This wasn't a conference for super Christians. It wasn't for those who have it all together, or at least think they do. It was, as one speaker jokingly said, like a camp for messed up adults. It was for people who have brokenness to deal with, people who have the same struggle I have.

 They may as well have had a sign at the conference center entrance saying "no masks allowed!" One could try to wear a mask at the conference, but there would be no use. Everyone there for the HFW Conference either had the same struggle, or they were there for someone who did. So figuratively speaking, everyone tossed their masks aside as they entered the conference grounds, and it was all there in the open. The admitting "I'm like you. I'm broken, messed up, and dealing with THAT also."

  Unless you have a secret struggle or issue that you carry and feel you can't just step out and say "this is my issue/struggle", then you can't imagine what it is like to be around a bunch of people who have the same struggle and issue for a few days. It was truly like a slice of Heaven. No masks, no barriers, no shame.

  The conference started out Thursday evening with a time of worship, a testimony, and a speaker. Following that service, there was a time of group sharing. The men gathered in one place, the women in another, the teens in another, and couples in yet another. The theme of the conference was "daring to tell your story." And believe it or not, I did. It was an abbreviated version, but there with I would guess between 30-40 guys, I spoke up and told mine. And I survived.

 Each full day had a morning, afternoon, and evening general session. Following the morning and afternoon sessions, there were "break out sessions" or workshops, where you could pick which one you wanted to go, with usually around 7 to pick from. They had a lot of good speakers in the general and break-out sessions, and I was greatly encouraged and inspired.

 I made some new friends. Again, it was awesome to sit down at a table and have other guys eating with me that have the same struggles as I do. There was no need to pretend or posture. We all knew why we were there, and it made for even greater fellowship and conversation.

  I got to meet some guys who have already become heroes for being out there on the forefront of the battle. They are further up the road than I am. They are daring to tell their story and are letting God use them to help others, like me.

  There was someone who messaged me a while back about certain things I post on Facebook. Among other things, she said she would think I'd want to stay as far away from the issue I struggle with, instead of talking about it as I do. I was upset at first, but then I let it go. If you have never been here where I am, you won't get it.

 And if no one ever talked about where God brought them from, there would be no hope for others coming behind that change is possible. No hope that God can help with even THAT struggle.

  I am thankful for the men and women who have been there and ARE telling their stories. Men and women who have ministries and conferences for people dealing with the very tough issue I deal with. They could just be quiet, work at serving God, and not rocking the boat and go against what the world says, and sadly what too many Christians say.

  Heaven will be more wonderful than we could ever imagine. Streets of gold, no parting or tears, no temptations and struggles....... and no more masks. No more hiding, no more fear of what our Christian brothers and sisters will say if they knew THAT about us.

  I got a taste of that part of Heaven this past week-end, and I was left wanting more. Thankful for being able to go and experience those wonderful and blessed times, but left wanting more. Heaven: a truly wonderful place for many reasons, and one of them, no more masks.

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