1 Corinthians 1:27-29
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.
Check out Part One!
Check out Part Two!
Check out Part Three!
Check out Part Four!
From the second I arrived at O YOU! I knew I was in for a memorable experience. I arrived about 6:30am (doors opened at 7, but the actual first session didn't start until 9!) and there was already about 500+ people in line. Rumor had it that there had been women camped out since midnight the night before just so they could get dibs on good seats. Whoa.
As I made my way down, down, down (does this line end?) down the line, it suddenly struck me how incredibly diverse the audience was. Ages 16 - 86, mostly women but some men, every race, every religion, every sexual orientation, everyone looking way too fabulous for it still being dark outside. Everyone there because of one person and one reason: To see Oprah and improve our lives.
I quickly befriended a few gals in line and started chatting with them about how interesting it was to me that we were all here for the same reason, and yet here for completely different and individual reasons all at the same time. "That's true," one lady said, "I guess we all have something we need to work on!"
I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted out of the day. I knew I was just going to enjoy an entire day on my own agenda, not having to worry about the needs of my little girls (for the most part) and ready to engage in this culture that was inviting, intellectual, and interested in who I was. I mean, after all, the day was called O YOU! it was blatantly branded as brightly colored validation and felt special to be welcomed as if we were the celebrities getting the notice, and not the other way around.
Even standing in line became a treat as the Oprah Staff handed out free breakfast sandwiches and smiled at you as if you had just accidentally tipped them too much. As I entered the foyer of the convention center, it became apparent that this level of stardom brought with it a bandwagon of brand management that I had never witnessed before. The LA Convention Center had become "Oprahland" overnight. Signs and giant "O's" were everywhere. Every column or wall was somehow signified by her enterprise. It was seamless and beautiful, and if I didn't know any better I would have thought this was Oprah's very own event coliseum that had always been hers and this event had always been there and always would be. This is the best of the best, I thought. And there is something spectacular in witnessing and appreciating the effort behind such a feat.
As you have read through the week, you now are familiar with all of the sessions I attended throughout the day. The "experts" I encountered truly were just that - experts in their field. Each one of them held captive an audience of 5,000+ as if they were talking to their family around the dinner table. Each one of them spoke so freely, so confidently, so fluidly that it made me look behind myself to see if there was a teleprompter stationed somewhere I couldn't see. There wasn't. They held no notecards. They needed no pause. They owned that auditorium and knew it. And the (I'll just say "women" since truly the audience only held about 1% men) women they spoke to ATE. UP. EVERY. SINGLE. WORD.
I had invested money in the day. I had invested time. I had invested thought and energy and deliberation to absolutely sponge as much "expertise" out of these individuals (and the experience as a whole) as I possibly could. I had already assigned value to the task from the moment I bought the ticket, so now was the time to cash in on the life lessons I was promised.
By the time I was waiting in line to see Oprah in the final session (did I mention I was in line 2 HOURS prior to schedule...though, I did get in the 12 row, center stage!) I was bursting with information. My brain was on overload with the intake of tips, advice, how-to's, to-do's, and what-not's. I was tired of the stubborn women and exhausted by enthusiastic ones. I just wanted to see my Oprah, get an emotional hug from afar, and go home and get in my jammies.
It was in the middle of this dreamy thought (as my feet were gaining numbness from standing for so long) that a Security Guard informed us that our line ("Group A") was going to need to calmly and efficiently move around to a different area before entering the arena. A collective "Ohhhh hellll no" erupted from the crowd. I sort of shrugged it off, just glad that someone around here evidently knew where we were supposed to go, and I was happy to be cattle-corralled into the correct location as long as Oprah was at the end of it all (Oprah and a seat for my tired feet, please).
But, hell hath no fury like a woman scorning a security guard for coming between her and her Oprah. Whoa. Let me tell you, I've never witnessed angrier, lunatic, irrational women outside from watching a clip from a Jerry Springer show. It was ugly. And, believe it or not, most of those terrible loud-mouths got their way and were let in line in front of the rest of us (the squeaky wheel got the grease that day, evidently). It was sad. It was gross. And it made me take pause and see how passionate these women were about learning ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
Witnessing this debacle, I leaned over next to the person next to me in line and said "Wouldn't it be so great if that security guard just "Mission-Impossibled" the crowd and pulled off his face like a mask and it ended up really being Oprah???" We had a good laugh, thinking about how Oprah would surely laser-vision-destroy those line-cutters with her glare of shame. Some people just never learn, no matter what it is.
I finally got seated. The room is buzzing. Music is blaring and the rhythm makes you question whether we are at an information session or a nightclub, it is so intense. There are giant screens on either side of the stage with quotes from each of the day's speakers. It's the final session and you could cut the enthusiasm in the room with a knife, it was so thick.
Before this day, I had never been to anything so emotionally charged, so spiritually uplifting, so energetically palpable that didn't have anything to do with Jesus. That is, having been to women's retreats or various ministry conferences, it felt strange to feel so connected with strangers and understood by people I'd just met, that didn't necessarily worship the same God I did. (If you've ever been to a ministry conference, Christian camp, concert, or retreat, you probably know what I'm talking about.)
I looked out into this sea of women, their arms raised high, their voices shouting out with happiness and confidence, and I had the strangest sensation come over me. I teared up as I felt God revealing to me exactly what I was looking at...orphans.
These women, this "Oprah culture" if you will, was a crowd of wandering, wondering, parentless children. They were in desperate search for a parent. Not only someone to look after them, love them unconditionally, or validate their feelings...but someone who would guide them, instruct them, set limits, give them boundaries, and model our ideal of who we truly want to be.
My heart broke right then and there for them. Such desperation, such hope and expectation, all placed on a single woman's words, kind eyes, and ideals. How could Oprah possibly adopt them all? How could Oprah lead them? How could Oprah fix them, guide them, teach them? How could she...after all, isn't she an orphan herself?
What Oprah had to say that day was nothing short of magical. It was lovely and encouraging and some of it even felt prophetic or divine. That might sound sacrilegious to some of you or just plain exaggerated, but let me tell you - when someone is the best at something, you feel affected by it, and right or wrong in content, Oprah is one of the best communicators on the planet and that's a fact. It was like watching an Olympian perfectly and easily demonstrate their sport, as she gracefully paced the stage and spoke with such genuine authority. It was eerie and serendipitous all at the same time. I've never seen anything like it (of course, it doesn't hurt that I highly and deeply value the art of communication, so I was rather in awe of her mastering of the craft).
But, Oprah's message (the basis for the entirety of the day) has one consistent and critical flaw. Her main idea is this: "You can fix you."
And, my dear friends, I'm here to tell you, NO...you can't.
You can't fix yourself. No matter the degree, no matter the method, no matter the strength. You, I'm sorry to say, are not your answer to your problems. The sad part about this news, is that the harder you work to improve yourself, change yourself, or alter yourself, the more and more futile your efforts become. You will lose time, energy, money, and most likely a lot of sanity as you attempt to change more and more things by doing the same exactly wrong method towards self-improvement over and over and over again. This is why all these women, this "Oprah culture", these orphans, are caught in a cycle of coming back for more. Nothing ever changes.
There's a reason we call God our Father. There's a reason Jesus came to earth to be a lowly human being and show us finally and for once how to live. There's a reason we can live securely and contently as weak failures day in and day out. Hallelujah - the good news is this - You can't fix you!
That's right. The same exact sad news as before turns out to actually be the absolute BEST news you could ever learn. Think about it for a while and just consider how this looks in real life. I mean, religious skepticism aside - why in the world would you actually turn to your broken self to fix yourself? Why do you think you are equipped to handle what life has given you? What makes you the expert on yourself, exactly?
Maybe think about it in this way - if your car broke down tomorrow, would you ask your toddler to fix it? I mean, she's ridden around in the car for a few years, she has opinions about comfort and style. She might even be able to turn the radio on by herself or buckle herself in or something. Ridiculous though, right? Obviously you wouldn't ask your toddler to fix your car...you would maybe take it to a trained mechanic; but ideally, you would go directly to the manufacturer to find out what the heck went wrong.
So then, why is it so different to consider going to our Creator, for our answers about ourselves? Why wouldn't we turn to God about things like depression, anxiety, marriage, children, direction, motivation, etc....anything! Certainly, we should read the manual. Definitely, we should call on professionals at times. But, all this to say - you are broken. We are all broken. Just like that lady in line next to me at the very beginning said, "We all have something to work on."
I know, I know, I know. It can sound too good to be true. It can sound hokey and boring and ridiculous. But, we are all in need of that "parent". We all long for boundaries and rules to run up against and test the limits just so we can acknowledge the fact that there is a love that exists to protect us and keep us safe.
It's just not about "us" at all. This game we play with ourselves that we just need more "me time" or we just need to learn more about ourselves (and, I'm all for rational, quality time to be alone and seek guidance, don't get me wrong) but, it is an illusion if you believe that is what will bring you answers to your deepest longings. Our weaknesses do not exist to limit our possibilities - our weaknesses exist to allow the impossible. Jesus is our impossibility. Jesus is our strength. Jesus is ours.
It was by no coincidence that the very next day after O YOU! I was sitting in church listening to a sermon on exactly this. Our newly appointed pastor, Mike Erre, has changed they way I feel about sitting in church in only the couple months he's been speaking at EV Free Fullerton. I had just been in the presence of "greatness" the day before - sat merely feet away from one of the world's most prolific speakers in history - and here I was, sitting in the far back pew of my church welling up with more inspiration than my soul knew what to do with.
That, my friends, is the power of truth. That is the power of the Holy Spirit. That is the power of the Almighty. No branding, no sponsors, no flashy programs to make you feel comfortable about the fact that you are not in control of your being. Just raw, beautiful truth that will change you, fix you, and adhere you forever to the road you are meant to travel.
Orphan no more, oh you.
I invite you to listen to the sermon I heard last Sunday morning. Follow this link to listen to the audio now, or visit HERE to watch the video or subscribe to the podcast. The sermon that day was titled "Weakness in an Age of Self-Sufficiency"