On Wednesday, I didn’t really want to be at Lifest. There were a plethora of reasons; namely: very few of my favorite artists were going to be there, after seven years it had become mundane, and my “I’m bored; let’s go get lost in the mosh pit” mother was leaving me with the responsibility of chaperoning my sisters.
I thought about our past six years worth of Lifests, and the plethora of funny memories flooded my head. The time Michael W. Smith finally played “Never Been Unloved” live after years of begging. Having our minivan pushed into the muddy parking lot. Steven Curtis Chapman’s first return to the stage following Maria’s death. How Mark Schultz’s water bottle earned a standing ovation. Watching TobyMac in a downpour and using a lawn chair as an umbrella. Don’t get me wrong, those stories are hilarious, but they aren’t what Lifest is about.
When asked to summarize this past Friday in one sentence, I said, “Worship in alternative form.” That’s exactly what Lifest is all about. I feel like after seven years, I finally got it. Lifest isn’t about sticking plywood in your elbows for four hours to be in the front of the mosh pit that night. It isn’t about finally having the opportunity to meet your favorite band. It isn’t the perfect time to destroy your eating habits. It isn’t even a great excuse to stay up until one am every day. Rather, Lifest is an opportunity to see God in a new way. Worship in alternative form(s).
Sure, it’s pretty basic. If someone else had said it over the past six years, I definitely would have agreed. I have great God moments from previous Lifests. Kneeling on fist-sized rocks with my arms stretched towards the beautiful blue sky crying out to my Abba Father. Listening to Peter Fuller of Newsboys talk about how God’s timing is perfect only for his sentence to be interrupted by a nearby train (“and you laugh”). Something about this year was different. Agreeing that “church has left the building” and applying the concept are two different things.
Of course, I’ve got silly stories from this year, too. Matthew West writing a spontaneous song about brats. Skillet’s opinion on illegal music downloads and still loving the audience for free. Officially becoming part of BarlowGirl. Hitting Aaron Shust in the head with my cowboy hat. Getting chastised by Mark Schultz for singing along to one of his songs that hasn’t been released yet. Dancing, jumping, singing, and worshipping with my arms around complete strangers. Singing two commercials with several hundred of my new “family members.” Following Peder Eide around as he moved from stage to stage. Except I had to look through my journal to remember all of those silly things.
The things I remember off of the top of my head are memories about closing my eyes singing and signing praises to God as raindrops fell softly onto my face and Phillips, Craig, and Dean led us in worship. Singing “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and having Peder Eide cut off the audience telling us only to sing if we really believed it and were aware of what we were singing. Watching Bob Lenz on the jumbotron saying, “God is bigger than your pains” as the beautiful sun set behind him. Singing hymns on Mountain Dew and confessing "Yes, I believe." Finally understanding how worship is truly "tasting and seeing that the Lord is good."
To anyone else, my Lifest may look like a let-down. I only went to 3 events not at the Grandstand. I waited in line for 2 Meet and Greets. Yet to me, it was worth every $2.50 bottle of water to sit outside in a sea of lawn chairs and read 1 Samuel in a new light. I will repeat “We’re family, and I love you,” to more strangers if it also means I can also shout “God is good. All the time.” A misconception that’s been stuck in my head for the last six years has finally disappeared, and praying for no rain for five days will never be the same.
How easily do we lose focus on what Lifest is all about? On what life itself is all about?