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Hutchmoot 2021 Re-entry: A Planet Full of Roses

In his Sunday Chef’s Address, John Cal referenced The Little Prince and made an insight that has stuck with me. He said, “It’s like when the Little Prince discovered a planet full of roses, when at first he believed that his one single rose was unique and special in the universe. ‘It is special because it is your rose,’ the Fox tells him, ‘Not that it is unique, but that it is yours.'”

Every year, Hutchmoot fills me with several nearly-indescribable gut feelings—and I know at once that I won’t feel them again at that intensity until next October. This Little Prince quote awakens one of those deeply-felt feelings in me, and I’ll try to describe it here.

It’s the sense of having labored long and hard at the keeping of this rose which is mine, never sparing a moment to look up from the ground, until I’m tapped gently on the shoulder and beckoned to rise and see that planet full of roses—and not only the roses themselves, but the gardeners and caretakers of those roses, talking and laughing and showing one another the work of their hands. At that sight, two emotions course through me in rapid succession: first, the rather juvenile disappointment that my rose turns out not to be the only rose in the universe after all; and second, the more mature relief that I am not alone in this work, that there are voices other than my own, voices that have insights to share which I might not have considered before, voices that sound pleasant, welcoming, and so graciously new to my ears.

To put it more conceptually, I experience Hutchmoot as a profound antidote to individualism—and yet, that doesn’t mean the forgetting of oneself. It means precisely what the Fox meant: the recovery of a true vision for why it matters that I tend to my rose. Not because it’s the only rose to ever exist—the fantasy of rampant individualism—but simply and unglamorously because it is mine.

The true Story was still told, the songs of redemption still sung, and the vision of a new creation still imaged on canvas. We don't have to be at our best for these things to happen, and in fact, we may be nourished all the more for it. Drew Miller

The beauty of this is that once I learn what gifts belong to me and honor them properly, I am freed up to notice and delight in the gifts that belong to others. Here’s some of what I noticed this weekend: nobody tells stories from such a deep well of faith as Walter Wangerin, Jr. The hospitality of Sho Baraka’s lyricism—how he teaches and encourages and challenges and tells the truth all at once—that is his rose. Whenever I listen to Sara Groves talk, I come away wanting so badly to write another song. She’s so very good at that. Dave Barnes is hilarious, but more than that, his humor is such a beautiful entry point into the vulnerability of not taking oneself too seriously. Kyra Hinton knows how to facilitate collaboration better than anyone I know, and the fruit of that labor was absolutely stunning in the art studio! Malcolm Guite has so thoroughly internalized the poetry of the gospel that it flows through him like an electric current, and that rose is marvelous to behold. And speaking of poetry, I hear Hannah Hubin’s work and am left wrestling with its implications and contemplating truths beyond telling. That’s her rose.

And that is just a very small sampling of the roses that were on display this weekend! Not included in that list is the extravagant creativity of all the Hutchmoot posters that attendees shared on the virtual fridge, the whimsical playfulness of Huntmoot, and the list goes on and on.

There’s one more gift that arises from the proper naming of the rose that belongs to me and the roses which belong to others: even the responsibility of caring for my rose does not fall entirely on my shoulders. It requires my care and attention, but it also requires sunlight, water, and mysterious gifts that only appear by God’s grace. And that’s another one of those indescribable feelings I experienced this year. I don’t think it’s overstating the case to say that every single speaker and artist contributed their rose out of a place of deep exhaustion from the past eighteen months of life on this planet. But the embarrassment of riches that we were still able to enjoy testifies to a source of life far more lasting than the dried-up wells of our own efforts. One miracle I saw this weekend, then, was dozens upon dozens of rose-keepers pointing us beyond their own work, to the Keeper of us all who has held us and sustained us in the face of immense pain, loneliness, and grief. The true Story was still told, the songs of redemption still sung, and the vision of a new creation still imaged on canvas. We don’t have to be at our best for these things to happen, and in fact, we may be nourished all the more for it.

So allow me to ask—and please leave your answer in the comments section—what is your rose? What did it feel like to glimpse the roses of others?

How have you been nourished? What did you notice, what spoke to you, and what will you carry with you from this weekend into your daily life?


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