A close friend has invited me to attend the IF:Gathering, a Christian women’s conference meeting this February in Austin, Texas. The website for the IF:Gathering defines their organization’s goal: “We exist to gather, equip and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose.”
These young women are among the rising voices of the next generation: gifted visionaries, full of fervor. I am inspired by the way they are inspiring. I value the value others glean from the work they are doing.
So, when my friend asked if she could treat me to this event, I found her generous offer to be an act of love. I believe her desire is for inspiration to be rekindled within this weary soul. However, as soon as I accepted the invitation I began dreading the idea of being around these female world changers.
I found myself waking in the dark hours of the night questioning what purpose I might now have to offer the greater Christian community. Rather than counting sheep or meditating on scripture, I found myself gathering my own IFs.
- IF I had been a better wife
- IF I had been honest with my struggles
- IF I had been truly transparent with just one person
- IF I had not thrown away the opportunity I had been given
- IF only I were less _____________ (insert varying negative adjective)
With each IF gathered, I found my self-worth plummeting. The purpose to my life which is obvious and significant became overshadowed by a big bucket of gathered IFs. God has called me to be the wife my husband desires and deserves: a helpmate. But with all these IFs gathered from past regrets–I wasn’t being much of a helpmate to anyone.
Like Jacob, I wrestled. Through the nights and in the quiet hours in my home, I kept asking, “After all I have done, how am I to find an IF that has significance?”
Finally one evening, in the unlikeliest of moments, God spoke. While busy working as a food server in a crowded restaurant, it was as if I heard God say to me very clearly, “You’re looking at it wrong.”
I stopped dead cold and stared at the pitcher of Iced Tea in my hand. I glanced at the matching pitcher resting on the counter. It was filled with Ice Water. At first glance, both pitchers appeared the same, but their contents were not just slightly different, but completely different.
In that moment I realized the IFs I had been gathering were possibly focused in the wrong direction. I had been so busy asking God to give me meaning for the future, all the while focusing on the IFs of my past. Gathering IFs from my past is not just slightly different, but completely different.
I thought, “I need to be gathering IFs that are forward focused.”
As if having God speak to me while I waited tables at a restaurant wasn’t inspiring enough, God sealed this concept on my heart with something far more lasting than an Iced Tea pitcher. The next morning while working through my Bible study, I came across this passage from 1 John 3: 2-3
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
My brain nearly exploded from the delight of being led to a verse holding forward focused promises. “What we will be has not yet been made known… When Christ appears, we shall be like him…”
Deep emotions are drawn to the surface at the thought of what this implies. This is a reminder that all we are isn’t even known. All that we are is still being made. And when Christ appears, we will be like him. To be like Him holds a different value than I had previously realized. To be like Christ means we will never disappoint anyone again.
- How heartbreaking are the tears of full grown men when they recall memories of being a young child who disappointed a parent?
- How many teenage girls have felt the sting of regret when they have eyed the positive results of a pregnancy test? Pregnant, scared and overwhelmed with grief for having disappointed her parents.
- Which parent among us cannot recall a time when we failed our own child? Family game-night turned temper flaring war zone. When the opposite of what we hoped happens.
- How many spouses see the patterns of disappointment in their own marriage, but can’t seem to break “that one habit”? Disappointing a spouse, leaving them feeling isolated is horrifying, as it is the only family relationship we choose.
Thinking of these things makes it worth repeating: to be like Christ means we will never disappoint anyone again.
I contemplated this verse for a couple of days, and I was reminded again of the two beverage containers. They appear to be very similar, but their difference is extreme.
The IFs I am gathering are not only supposed to be forward focused, but they aren’t even supposed to be about me.
I found myself remembering that which I thought I had understood the day before–and I rephrased it, “I need to be gathering IFs that are God focused without worry or concern for His greater purpose in my life.”
By gathering IFs of His character, we begin now to be transformed into that which we will be when Christ is revealed. Does this mean we will never disappoint anyone ever again? Certainly not. We are still children in need of Grace. It’s not about being free from ever hurting or disappointing anyone again, it’s about being free from the hurting/yearning/scheming inside ourselves and thereby never intentionally hurting others again. Searching desperately for purpose can lead us straight down the path where we wander away from the path of understanding.
IF we remain focused on Him, He will reveal each days purpose, thereby relieving us of the drive to find a greater purpose, as it is already complete.
2 thoughts on “Gathering IFs”
IF… what a small little word that tends to hold so much power over us. I love seeing through your words how you worked through this. I know it is something I struggle with too. IF…. now when I catch myself I look up as if looking to God and say Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve…move on. I think now I’ll also see the image of the pitchers. Thank you for planting such a great visual reminder and helping to reset the focus to the future.
Thank you for reading and commenting, Chris. So true what you say about would’ve, should’ve, could’ve…move on. So true.