I’ve just returned from four plus days of conferencing with the American Association of Christian Counselors. I am told about 7500 of us were there. I had the good pleasure of presenting, listening, discussing, learning, and debating. I renewed old acquaintances and made new ones that I hope to keep up with long after the conference. As one who loves learning and debating, conferences are nearly required activities. Sure, I get my continuing education credits (CEs) met but even more so, I get to try on new ideas and debate old ones. It is 4 days of stimulation of thoughts, ideas, and feelings.
But it is also false.
At conference hotels, someone makes all your meals, cleans up after you, makes your bed, refreshes your towel and makes you feel important when the concierge asks, “anything else I can do for you.” During and after sessions where I am the presenter, I have all sorts of folks who want to solicit my opinions and wisdom. They seem to like me and some even want to emulate me. They ask me for coffee and my business card so they can connect more later. Conferences also include plenty of socializing. Everyone is happy to be there, wears their good clothes, has interesting things to say, and seems to be the most reasonable people on the planet. No one seems to have much emotional or relational baggage at these conferences. There are no kids to reprimand, fights with spouses, and conflicts to navigate.
Oh, and when the main speakers appeal to our work as “kingdom critical”, I am reminded that I am indeed important to God and the world. Without me, the world as we know it would not exist.
You see the falseness when conferences scratch that itch for intellectual and relational stimulation and tempt us to believe that this is how life should be. My wife and children don’t hang on my every word, aren’t interested in being my concierge, and no one freshens up my room for me when I leave for the day.
Don’t get me wrong. I love conferences. Ideas flow afresh. Collaborative arrangements solidify. My mind and heart are filled. But, I also need to remember that I and the rest of the attendees aren’t really as special as we imagine. This is a Sabbath from the real work and not where life is really lived.
It was probably good that one of my presentations was on the topic of narcissism. I might need to re-read my notes again.