“‘No. You’re forgetting,’ said the Spirit. ‘That was not how you began. Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about the light.'” – Lewis, The Great Divorce
Hello, dear fellow Hutchmooter.
You are now experiencing reentry. Please keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times, and wait until the car comes to a complete stop. Reentry is not pleasant for anyone. It’s a strange mix of feeling full, of having so much to talk about, to share, to process — and maybe you don’t have anyone to do that with. Maybe you have to hit the ground running with small children the moment you enter the door. Maybe you have an unforgiving boss who doesn’t care about your weekend. And you — you’ve been altered, you’ve been fed. You feel different and you wish you could put it into words.
Maybe this was your first time at Hutchmoot, and you were astonished at the restful space that was given to you. You were unhurried in your heartfelt conversations with people who were once strangers, but now are dear friends. You lingered over your coffee, made with care and love and handed to you with a smile. You’re overwhelmed with the simultaneous joy of a creative space like Hutchmoot, but you’re also exhausted and your brain and spirit feel full to the brim. While you don’t want to leave, you feel that if you had one more session to sit through and think through, you might slump over onto the floor out of sheer overload.
Maybe this was a returning time for you. You knew the faces to expect, the hugs to anticipate, and the jokes to be told. You might have opened up on a new level and shed some tears with kindred spirits. You felt, as you have many years before, that this was a home-going of sorts. Yet every year is different, and there are new things to think about and sort through. Your heart feels uplifted and filled. You lingered in the parking lot and didn’t want to leave yet again.
If I may, I’d like to remind you of one very hard thing: Hutchmoot isn’t a staying place; it’s a sending place.
Wherever in the world you’re returning to, you’re sent there. You’ve been placed there by design. You aren’t there by accident. At least for now, and for most of us, Nashville isn’t where we belong.
You, artist/creative type/appreciator, serve a purpose in the kingdom of God in your actual, local, geographic location. You are a part of the body, unlike any other part of the body where you are. You aren’t meant to be like everybody else.
Part of the glory of Hutchmoot is that you feel like people “get” you. You ask them if they’ve read that book, and they have! And they loved it, too! Remember Lewis’ quote about how friendship is born the moment someone says, “What, you too?! I thought I was the only one!” Hutchmoot is full of those moments, and they are delightful and soul-nourishing.
But back at home, you are a bit more unique. Not everyone thinks the way that you do. This, also, is by design. If everyone thought like I did, the budgets would never be balanced and the times tables would never be learned. But that’s because I serve a different function than someone else who excels at those things.
It’s easy to interact in that “you too” manner at Hutchmoot because some of the work has already been done for us. We know that we make a Narnia reference and almost everyone will perk up. We know that people will want to talk thoughtfully about films and not cast them aside out of hand. There are relatively safe conversational spaces to occupy and know you will be welcomed. But that’s because the Proprietor, the Hutchmaster, and the staff have worked very hard to establish grooves for us to run in. The way has been paved, the example has been set, and the space has been made. At home, this is probably not true.
May I suggest that you do some hard work to find those “you too” moments with the members of your local place?
Not everyone there is easy for you to love. You’re not easy for some of them to love, either. Recall Paul’s teaching to the Corinthian church about the parts of the body. You might be an eye who has nothing in common with an ankle or a hand. Remember, you have the most important thing in common: you have Jesus! The body of which you’re a part is the very thing you have in common.
Because you’re good at imagining, let’s imagine for a moment a group of eyes talking to each other. “What a night I had!” one says. “The Body left the contact lenses in overnight and it was a battle all night long.” The other eyes nod in agreement — they’ve experienced that as well. Another pipes up, “I saw the most beautiful meal the other night, but Stomach was a real downer and said we could only have a few bites.” Someone replies, “yes, my Stomach is that way too. Why don’t they understand what we see? How beautiful it is?”
It might take more effort for an eye to have conversations with stomachs, ankles and hands than with other eyes. But they are still part of the same Body, and they can’t do without each other.
I have long felt, as many of you do, that The Rabbit Room is a unique place worth preserving. It’s different, it’s new to some of us, and it’s a haven. Anytime there is a sniff of controversy, we have the difficult conversation or we just do the hard work of lovingly pressing through and forgiving a difference. There is special care taken to major on the majors and allow kind disagreement on the minors, because we can’t let conflict destroy this special place we’ve got.
But this is what the church ought to be to us, as well. Perhaps familiarity with the institution of the local church, and the way it has become lazily enfolded into cultural Christianity, has made us careless in striving for the preservation of it.
If the past decade in America is any indication, there is a shift happening in American culture. We are, slowly but surely, moving from “a Christian nation” (may I say, we were never this — and that’s another post) to a post-Christian one. Though the changes are uncomfortable, the church is being refined. It’s becoming increasingly uncomfortable for people to hang onto churches for the social capital. This is a good thing.
As this shift continues, the need increases for you, Rabbit. Your local body needs your voice of hope. Your vivid descriptions of Heaven. Your songs in the night. They won’t all understand it at first, and some of them will never “get it” at all — at least, not at the level your idealistic heart wants them to. But for those who do, you may function as a life preserver. Russell Moore has made it a habit of saying that the church is moving from moral majority to prophetic minority. As this happens, the songs and stories will grow all the brighter. The church needs its artists and its poets, striving with their musical hearts towards peace in the church and for the hope of Heaven.
So don’t stay in Nashville, Hutchmooter. Go sing to your people at home. Maybe we’ll see you next year. We’ll hug you when you get here.