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Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1

I spent the past weekend in Austin, TX, with in a room full of women who said yes to this thing called IF:GATHERING. The mission of IF is gather, equip and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose.  “We could be a generation that wasn’t fancy or perfect, but lived like our God is REAL.” These words by Jennie Allen set the tone for the whole weekend. I’m not sure any of the 1,200 women in that room or the thousands watching online quite knew what to expect, but I’m certain we all got more than we bargained for. These words from Paul, they carry a weight and responsibility. “Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

As a runner, this has always been a great metaphor for me. It is unknown what will happen after the first foot hits the pavement. Some days it is effortless, and others can feel like you’re moving bricks step after step. Those days I want to quit. It hurts and frankly it can seem pointless. But by quitting, you are issuing a self imposed death sentence. You may still be living, but you will not be fully alive. Perseverance. It’s hard to spell and even harder to live out. Why? Because there are times when it can hurt, times when we stumble, times when it feels awkward and pointless, times when we want to quit. Then Shelley Giglio reminds us of this, “our yes hangs on the balance of a lot of people’s future.” Gulp. This race, it’s not just about me.

IF:GATHERING wrapped up on Saturday evening, but it has left a footprint on this generation that will be lasting. I dare say it has sparked a great awakening of women across the globe. I could feel it in the room, and I can feel it now. The kind of unity that is steadied to leave a mark. We started off by repenting, casting off that which hinders and holds us back. In that moment, at the table, with women we had just locked eyes with for the first time, things got real. Brave souls showed up, many alone, grabbed a seat, and took hold of the process with urgency. We shared, we confessed, we prayed. We quickly began to realize we are a lot more alike than we are different. There is freedom in knowing you are not alone. The kind of freedom where, as Christine Caine challenged us, you step out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land. Where you begin to open doors for other prisoners. I believe we are a generation of women ready to do just that. What happens out of this could be dangerous in the best possible way.

I don’t have words to adequately express my gratitude for what happened at IF:GATHERING this weekend. I don’t suspect my words will matter much anyway unless they translate into how I live. Even as I sit here now, I know full well that these two days have just begun to work themselves out in the lives of so many women. Ann Voskamp captivated us during a night of candlelit reflection and communion with her message releasing us from the grip of comparison. She boldly and poetically proclaimed, “We have been walking around with measuring sticks for far too long.” That we cannot measure souls, we can only love them. That we must stop performing for love. Rebekah Lyons later poured out her heart with a message that I’m certain set so many women free, myself included. She reminded us that our version of wholeness may be different from God’s version. She pointed us to our callings. To a place where our burdens and our talents collide. She reminded us that though we may be broken and full of fear, that God can set us free, to go and be who we already are. That our lives are lived for an audience of one. These moments, and so many others, freed the souls of many women in that room. Free from comparison and fear, free from our striving and our sin, free from being stuck in our past. Free to run our race.

Jen Hatmaker taught us there is no formula to running that race. To simply remember to love God and that we are loved by God. She challenged our definition of greatness. That it does not stem from power, money or fame. That is has nothing to do with our striving. That it should be defined in terms of service. Something we are all capable of. She powerfully proclaimed that “If we do not have to be Jesus defenders, then we are set free to be representatives.” That we should desire with desire to serve. And that, though at first it may seem awkward, we will learn to like it. She reminded us that the scope of human suffering is enormous and that we can simply not sit back and let it happen. “Not on our watch” she challenged us. That all we must do is play our own note, and together it will play a song that will set the captives free.

I’m thankful for the women on that stage that said yes. I’m equally thankful for the yes of the women who gathered in Austin and around the globe. And for the women who will say yes as this movement catches steam. If we can all just play our note, this could become something beautiful beyond the scope of our imagination. This work has not been finished. It has only just begun. “We could be a generation that wasn’t fancy or perfect, but lived like our God is REAL.” If we take hold of this, if we run our race with perseverance, this world will not look the same. We have gathered, we are being equipped, now lets GO!

**The vision for IF:Gathering is to gather, equip and unleash this generation of women to live our their calling. Though one gathering has passed, the equip phase is in full swing. Visit IFequip.com for more information on how to get plugged in. There is something happening here that you don’t want to miss!**