Jennie Allen convinced me that I had to attend my first ever IF: Gathering in February.
“You just have to be there,” she persisted. “I just know it.”
One of Jennie’s many giftings is that she’s a persuasive force to be reckoned with. When Jennie knows something deep in her bones, you know it, too. You can’t help it.
“I’ll think. I’ll pray. I’ll consider,” I promised.
Other invitations and opportunities loomed large. Yet in the quiet of my gut, I sensed the nudge that IF was a way of God asking me to trust, to make a significant sacrifice, to lunge forward in faith.
I joined 1200 women in a beautiful auditorium all asking God, “What IF?” The answer came in the most unexpected way.
If you’re unfamiliar with the IF: Gathering, it’s born out of the heartbeat of Jennie. She oozes love of Jesus and a passion for our generation to connect to God. It’s clear she’s handpicked to lead this movement of women and it’s breathtaking to watch.
The worship was breathtaking to watch live. The line-up of speakers included everyone from Christine Caine to Jen Hatmaker. Some sessions included more than a dozen speakers. My heart and brain overwhelmed as we walked through the story of Joshua.
I joined Ann Voskamp, Shelley Giglio, Lauren Chandler, Debbie Eaton, and Helen Lee for a time of corporate confession and repentance on the first night. After hearing Shelley’s story, I wept like an infant.
Yet despite all the inspiring talks and interviews, the words pinned in my heart came from a woman who I do not know. A person I’d never met before. A face that’s still a mystery to me.
The attendees emptied out. The stage mostly dismantled. The chairs stacked, carried away.
Walking toward an exit, a woman approached, her aged yet delicate countenance brimming with wisdom and grace. I suspected she’d been in ministry for many years. On staff at a church? A pastor’s wife? A mom who’d spent decades tenderly rearing her kids?
I do not know.
She grabbed my elbow, stared with the most compassionate yet penetrating eyes, and declared:
“I have only one thing to say to you: Stay in the game.”
She turned and walked away.
Time froze. I stood breathless. Her words hung in the air.
Then someone else began chatting. The evening filled with new friends at a local diner, reflecting on this special event—all we heard, learned, discovered.
Yet months later, the four words that have haunted me didn’t come from a well-polished speaker or a famed author.
They came from a stranger.
Stay in the game.
I don’t know about you, but on more days than I want to admit, I want to quit. Turn in my jersey. Shout “Enough.”
Some days I feel…
Overtaxed and overmaxed.
Worn down and beat up.
My body hurts. My bones ache.
Chronic pain takes a heavy toll.
Patience replaced by irritation.
Fervor traded for fatigue.
Maybe you’ve had the exhaustion sink into your bones. Maybe you’ve thought…
Being a momma or poppa is more than you can do today.
Walking into work is more than you can face today.
Serving at the church is more than you can give today.
Being a spouse is more loving than you can be today.
Climbing out of bed is just too much today.
I feel that way, too.
Yet there’s a woman, out there, somewhere, whispering the words of God to you and me:
Stay. In. The. Game.
Don’t hang up your jersey. Don’t throw in the towel. Don’t give up. Don’t give in.
Jesus will see you through.
Jesus will carry you through.
Jesus will even piggy back you through.
If you have grown weary in doing good, know you are not alone.
“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closet to us in the community of faith.” —Galatians 6:9-10
Jesus wants to speak life into your dry, achy bones.
Hope into the ache of your soul.
Peace into the cracks of your heart.
Life into the depths of your spirit.
Stay in the game, my friend. STAY. IN. THE. GAME.
And together, we will ask God, “What IF?”
A reader wrote and record this song after reading this blog post. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did: