I caught a glimpse of her as she rounded the corner and began heading down the stairs. Before I could think better of it, I called out, "Ann! Do you have a minute?"
With gracious, loving eyes, Ann stopped to shake my hand, and meet this unknown Chinese gal from Albuquerque, New Mexico. I quickly gathered my thoughts--thoughts that had been burgeoning for some time now--ready to spill forth in love, admiration, and gratitude. And that's how it came out...a blubbering mess of love, admiration, and gratitude...and one simply phrased statement I knew I wanted to say:
"Thank you for your response to him. I now feel free to love, free to connect, free to stand on what I fiercely believe but generously love when there may be differences."
I wanted her to know that I understood the tension. That I could feel the pressure. That I stand with sound doctrine. That I trusted her heart.
She wept and I wept and I stood in awe of what five minutes of incomplete, fumbling sentences could possibly communicate when hearts are broken over the same things.
And then she was called away. I got to say what I wanted to say! And yet...I wasn't sure. I felt like a fool--compacting 3 hours worth of processing and dialogue into five minutes of significance...with a woman who's gift is with words. And mine were a jumbled mess.
I released the worries and insecurity, and determined to let it go. Lord, use what I needed to say however you want. Even if it didn't make complete sense. It's not about me--or the impression I left--it's about your glory, God.
I wrote a short thank you note to Ann, sealed it up, and hoped to find an opportunity to slip it to someone who would know her personally. And then I listened to her speak to me and 400 other women.
She gave a clarion call to hide ourselves in Christ. To give up seeking the accolades of men, but desire only the applause of heaven.
She told us that the secret to good writing is good living in secret.
She encouraged us to never exchange fame for faithfulness.
She reminded us that Jesus did not worry about guilt by association. That a ministry of association leads to reconciliation.
She shared his words of apology to her...and she demonstrated that love is greater than fear. That the cross of Christ is the only platform we ever need to stand upon.
Her words led us to the throne of God. I joined with the entire ballroom of broken women and broken hearts, and worshiped the Healer, the Rescuer, the only one Worthy. We weren't looking at Ann, we were gazing upon Jesus.
And then I stood in a line that had formed at the end of the evening, note in hand, as I hoped to personally deliver it with a word of thanks. As she met me and my little note in hand, I was unexpectedly confronted with my Savior's warm and mysterious ways. Ann held my hands, and said,
"I came prepared to share a different message, but our talk at the top of the stairs changed my life."
Bewildered, I blurted, "Thank you."
"No, thank YOU, I'm indebted to you...your obedience to share your heart with me...became this."
How is it that God can take our most feeble attempts at faithfulness and turn them into marvelous works of impact? Because He is an infinite God who chooses to use and pour mercy upon finite beings, that's how.
Of all the techniques, strategies, seminars, and insights that were given at the conference, Ann's message that night--to be consumed with and for the love of Christ alone--was by far the most important blogging perspective I needed to hear.
God sweetly gifted me two-fold through Ann that night...with the most impacting of all messages received this past weekend, and the mercy that my brokenness could be whispered into it, and breathed out with magnitude for the glory of God.