In almost every conversation, it comes out that I coordinate a Christian festival. I try to avoid it, but here’s how the average first meeting goes:
Them: Oh, you’re not from around here!
Me: No, I’m from Orange County, California.
Them: Wait… Why did you move from California to Cornwall?
Me: One of a variety of answers, including God’s calling on my life, the amazing weather in England, and/or my secret adoration of the Queen.
Them: So what is it you do here in England?
Me: “I coordinate a week-long festival in Wadebridge, Cornwall, called Creation Fest.”
I’ve tried saying that I work for the government, but it usually falls flat fairly quickly.
Summer is festival season. You probably attended something that felt like a festival, either one of the “big ones” or a more local event or evening in your hometown.
Earlier this week, I sat in a meeting with other festival organisers from my county. They put on all sorts of interesting events: mobile bike light shows, festivals in libraries, outdoor music events woven into their towns, places of celebration that include art and dance and culture. They made this fascinating statement: “Festivals are the repository of a society’s culture.” A bold statement, and a fascinating one about our view of these events and gatherings.
I am the first to say that our lives shouldn’t just be shaped by a one-time event. Our faith is based on far more than just our emotional experiences, and for some, a festival is simply that. It can be a high point where you gather and sing (like you’ve never sung before) and are swept into the emotion of 100 or 1000 or perhaps even 10,000 others; you are stirred to daring dreams and impossible commitments.
But this article is about what happens after the festival. I plan an event with 2000+ campers, 350 volunteers, an incredibly dedicated group of 50 volunteer team leaders, and a core staff of… 3.
We celebrate tremendous high points. This year, 6988 people watched our festival online. People I know and love gave their lives to Jesus. Friends were set free from bitterness and heartache. This is all beautiful to see. I stood one night, at the back of the worship session led by Ben Cantelon, watching several thousand people join in celebratory, exuberant adoration of the God who created them, and in those moments, you forget entirely the months of planning and logistics and purchase orders and emails and instead think, “Thank you, Jesus, that I adore you, and that in this moment, with these people, we can adore you together.”
Those moments are precious and beautiful. And then … comes the day after. I found myself exhausted. Emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically, I had poured out everything I had to give, and then a little bit more.
In the day and weeks after, I asked the same questions we all sometimes ask about faith (and ministry?):
Is it all worth it?
Does it even matter?
Am I living my calling?
These questions are worth asking. They are worth wrestling with, exploring, grabbing hold of, and pinning down. Sometimes, the answer is no. There are events and experiences that we create just to feed our own insecurities and extend our self-dreams.
In the aftermath of the festival I coordinate, I had to ask these questions, over and over again. Part of my role involved taking on leadership from a man who passed away suddenly a year ago. I love and honor his vision but need to carry a vision and calling of my own.
What I learned, and am learning still, is that anything worthwhile will cost us something. The most important part of my life is a daily, personal, deep relationship with Jesus.
My job, my role, my planning, and my commitments must be separate from that. Attending events for an emotional experience will always fall flat at some point.
Perhaps you can relate to some part of my story and have experienced the joy of emotional experiences and the raw questions that follow when it feels like the emotions and support have packed up and gone home. If so, hold onto the good. Hold onto the truth of God’s Word, our identity as His children, our value outside of our accomplishments and actions.
Hold onto this simple truth: We are the children of God. He created us to know Him, to be in His presence the whole year-round (not just the summer festival season). Be loved by Jesus always because no festival high or aftermath low can change His love for you.