Fill the Cathedrals: What I learned from dancing like a fool at the Edel Gathering
I had this dream that I was on a dance floor with dozens of new friends, and I suddenly saw Abby Johnson to my left, and a unicorn in a dress to my right.
Oh, wait. That wasn’t a dream. That was the 2014 Edel Gathering.
There was singing.
There was wine.
There were talks so powerful that the Omni staff had to scramble to get enough Kleenex for all the sobbing women.
There was my amazing family — my mom, aunt Lisa, aunt Claudia, and uncle Kevin — who paid their own way to come and work the entire weekend, just to bless the women in attendance.
There were tweets broadcast on a jumbo screen.
There were husbands at home who figured out that they could get their tweets displayed on the jumbo screen.
There was dancing with babies.
There were crazy shoes.
There were babies in crazy shoes.
There were stunning table decorations, handmade as a labor of love by Kathryn Whitaker.
There were new friends made, and virtual friendships cemented.
There was Abby Johnson crashing the party just as Heather burst onto the dance floor wearing a unicorn head.
But you know what there was most of all? An overwhelming, tremendous, palpable sense of RELIEF.
As Sarah Babbs so beautifully said in her post about the event, many of us came to this gathering feeling utterly overwhelmed and discouraged. Our lives are wonderful, but they’re also hard.
Being a faithful Catholic mother in the world today is a counter-cultural move — and it feels counter-cultural. Sarah articulated it perfectly by saying that we’re exhausted from “swimming upstream in a culture that would not care if we drowned.”
Hallie and I knew that God was the one behind this event. When we signed that first venue contract last year, we had no idea what kind of event this would be. We just knew — and knew with a level of clarity that each of us had only rarely experienced — that God wanted this event to happen.
It was a fascinating experience to watch the hand of the Holy Spirit guide this event into the form he wanted it to take. It wasn’t until the very end that I even knew what the Edel Gathering’s purpose was. But once I saw it, it seemed so obvious:
The Edel Gathering was meant to help us feel less alone.
As the day of the event approached, I kept thinking of that famous story about the mom who felt completely invisible, and realized that her work was like that of the builders of the great cathedrals. The outside world might not see the important work that the builder does, but God sees.
And because he sees, he knows we’re still lonely, even though he is there. God knows that we crave the physical presence of our fellow human beings, because that’s how he made us. The God who became flesh understands the importance of meeting in the flesh.
I believe that what God did with the Edel Gathering — and what he will continue to do with future Edel Gatherings — was to throw open the doors of the cathedral, to flood it with fellow builders. The outside world may still ignore the work that we’re doing, but that doesn’t mean we have to toil alone. I believe that every woman who left the Edel Gathering this weekend now carries with her the sounds of laughter and joyful chatter of the fellow workers who now labor alongside her in the cathedral.
Saturday night, I found myself in the middle of a dance floor. It is the first time I have willingly stepped onto a dance floor in fifteen years. I know can’t dance; all I can ever do is flail to the beat and hope for the best. I always know that it would only take a few seconds of my moves to elicit a chorus of condescending snickers from onlookers who are much cooler (and much better dancers) than I. So I am always — ALWAYS — the one bobbing my head awkwardly off to the side.
Yet the joy of the evening was too contagious, and I found myself dancing like a fool, more filled with joy and happiness than I’ve felt in a long time, basking in the pure flood of relief that came with knowing that everyone here was a friend. And when I looked around, I saw the same joy and happiness and relief on all the other women’s faces. And as I watched them jump up and down and bust crazy moves to the sounds of claps and shouts of encouragement, I thought:
This is the celebration of women who have finally found their people.