There are events in life that are worthy of memorialization. Every detail is recorded for posterity. Hallmark birthdays. First steps. Weddings. We submerge ourselves fully and bathe in the richness of the moment. It is a sacred place. I won’t attempt to memorialize the events of last weekend at Hutchmoot. Pictures and scrawled notes fail miserably. Rather than recounting the specifics, I want to share a bit of the sacred fragrance that has lingered with me as a result.
Last year, my attendance at Hutchmoot was unexpected after learning of an open spot only days prior. I had little time to develop expectations, and sojourned through the weekend like a wide-eyed tourist taking in the sights. I went with no particular agenda, no preparation, and having had met only a few who would be attending. I arrived with open hands, and I left with a full heart.
During those few days in Nashville, I met folks who were writers, musicians, artists, and book lovers. We had much in common, and conversations flowed easily. Through the following year, some of those initial meetings grew into deeper friendships. Black and white took on tints of color. Initial sketches of those writers, musicians, artists and book lovers developed into more complex portraits. As months passed, I began to see them as parents, friends, spouses, and children, all finding their way through this thing called life. We read through books together and learned from one another. We shared life’s burdens and triumphs. We prayed for each other. As diversity and imperfections surfaced, the degree of affection and loyalty deepened.
In speaking about a writing group which had been meeting together for several years, Anne Lamott describes the following:
“They all look a lot less slick and cool than they did when they were in my class, because helping each other has made their hearts get bigger. A big heart is both a clunky and a delicate thing. It stands out, like a baby’s fontanel, where you can see the soul pulse through. You can see this pulse in them now.”
According to the lineup of speakers and musicians, a gathering like Hutchmoot could be perceived as a gathering of the “slick and cool.” Yet the actual experience was anything but. Nearly every conversation, whether in a crowded hallway or during a structured seminar, was peppered with the themes of gratefulness, brokenness, struggle and redemption. Folks were honest about life and cared for one another well. Hearts got bigger.
During one of the sessions, Andrew Peterson and Ben Shive read, sang, and played through the life of Rich Mullins. Mullins, like so many of us, led a life of seeming contradictions. He was steeped in scripture. He wrote unabashedly of the power, tenderness, grandeur and compassion of Christ. Yet his life was marked by significant struggle and addiction. Mullins had the courage to be honest about his life, and as a result, ushered in a new era of Christian musicians who would do the same. It’s an unexpected irony – his brokenness may have been the most beautiful thing about him. His struggle only amplified the grace of God. The same is true for all of us.
Yes, Hutchmoot was indeed what Jonathan Rogers termed “an embarrassment of riches.” The food, the music, the conversations, were far more lavish than mere words can convey. Yet the senses of taste, sight and sound only served to heighten an awareness of the eternal fragrance present in each one of us. Not of perfection, competence, or achievement, but the unmistakable incense of a broken, forgiven people. A people who are deeply and eternally loved by their Father. It’s the broken vessel that is most potent.
Maybe it’s a better thing
To be more than merely innocent
But to be broken, then redeemed by love
Andrew Peterson, Don’t You Want to Thank Someone
I’m grateful to have been given a few days with these beautiful, broken, and redeemed people.
* Photographs not printed with permission. If you’d rather have yours removed, don’t hesitate to let me know.