A Methodist pastor, a scientist, a Christian Shaman, a t-shirt company entrepreneur, a LGBT activist, a blogger, a transgender former mega church pastor, a hula hopping teen, a skeptical former rock star all walk into a conference. No that isn’t the beginning of a joke those were the people I met just on the first day of this years Wild Goose festival, and most of these humans were even in my cabin. For years I had heard whisperings of this festival and many times someone has suggested that I should speak at it, but I will be honest I had no idea what it really was. Nor did I have any idea how it would transform me.
This year when Wild Goose was brought up separately by two of my favorite humans I decided to finally turn in a speaker application. It was only after they accepted my application that I decided to go on the website and see the video describing the Wild Goose festival. Lets just say I immediately worried that I would not fit in. It looked like a Christian version of Coachella or Burning Man. I myself am an avid outdoors enthusiast, hiker and enjoyer of all things sustainable, but I doubt anyone would call me a hippie or “crunchy granola.” I like to camp but the idea of camping with thousands of others seems like either the beginning of a horrible horror film, or some sort of commune. Neither of which have I ever wanted to be a part of.
I even called one of my good friends to see if it would be possible to get out of the experience, and if he really thought I would be the kind of speaker these folks would want to hear from. He first assured me that we would be in a cabin with a crew of folks (he failed to mention that it would be secluded and if there was a category for this award it would hands down win “most likely to be the scene of a crime” but I digress) and that I was just the kind of voice folks would want to hear from. Fine. I would go but it didn’t mean I would have to like it. Turns out I didn’t like it… I loved it and I learned so much that I am thinking about turning all of my life decisions over to this friend and I have already began to plan for my next years “goose” as the regulars call it.
So why? What happened? Weren’t the main speakers all people you have heard from before, weren’t you tired, isn’t this the worst time for you to travel with a new church position? The answer is yes, and yet God had something really big for me to learn and it would take me traveling to the middle of North Carolina in the woods surrounded by 3000 outsiders for me to learn. There is something sacred in conversation, being uncomfortable, and out of control.
I discovered after the first day that I did indeed fit in. The very fact that I didn’t look like many of the participants of the conference made me a perfect addition to this collection of humans. I may have brought the urban chic vibe, and no one was judging. Instead of saying “who does she think she is?” as I walked around in my fashionable blue felt hat and somewhat trendy clothes people complimented me for my fashion and it started many conversations. Where was I from? What brought me here? And very quickly the conversation would turn toward the divine and why being here mattered. I was surrounded by people who understand why justice and compassion aren’t separate from my faith, but because of my faith.
As the four days progressed I learned that I didn’t have to worry about being outside of the norm because here, like the kingdom of God, there was no norm. I learned the value of being the outsider and being ok with not agreeing. I had sacred conversations where I think the Holy Spirit was speaking through others. I had conversations where I knew that the words I was using weren’t my words. I experienced four days where I was open to the idea that maybe the Holy Spirit was going to meet me in ways I wasn’t ready for. All of this happened while this So Cal girl was surrounded by gypsies, nomads, preachers, pacifist and atheists. I was tempted to be a skeptic observer of all the weirdness, but instead I let myself experience and prayed my way through it and I was given a huge gift a gift of letting go of control and allowing God to do what God was going to do. I was humbled and overwhelmed by the fact that my talk was beyond capacity attended on the first morning at 9am in one of the smaller venues. I was even more overwhelmed when people would stop and share what it meant to them all weekend long. These four days will take me a long time to get over but I have not laughed harder, cried harder, or hugged harder. I have been blessed, and it has got me wondering when have a missed the spirit because I was thinking it should look a certain way?