This past weekend, we concluded the Resurgent Gathering. I need to confess now. Perhaps it will be good for your soul. I need just to unburden mine.
We decided to go forward with the Resurgent Gathering in April after we got our first big sponsorship check. But the work really did not begin until around May 1st. We put this whole thing together in four months from a hotel contract to the actual event.
Some time around June 3rd, my 43rd birthday, I woke up at 3 o'clock in the morning with a chest so tight I could barely breathe. I knew I was not having a heart attack. At first I thought it was another clot. So I put on the blood oxygen meter that is now a regular device I have to keep with me and everything was fine.
I was having a panic attack. As I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, my mind began to wander. We had less than 100 attendees confirmed for the Gathering, more than half our speakers were still tentative, some we could not announce at all, and we had not even a quarter of pledged sponsor money in the door. On top of that, I was realizing 60% of my income had gone away in the last two years and if things went wrong, I was personally, financially toast (please stop saying conservatives who opposed the President in 2016 got rich. I assure you it is not true).
The 3 a.m. wake up call became such a regular event, I started pushing myself to stay up till close to 2 a.m. hoping I'd be so exhausted I could at least sleep until the alarm went off. But with regularity, I would wake up in full freakout mode between 3 and 4 in the morning almost every single night. On the rare night I did not wake up, the wave of panic would hit in the afternoon. Why pray when I could worry? I was (and still am) a gold medalist in the Worry Olympics.
After two weeks of this, I finally decided the only thing that would help was actually praying. It's not that I never prayed. I pray every night before sleep. I actually cannot fall asleep without praying it has become such a Pavlovian habit -- prayer gets me to sleep. But those prayers are often habitual, rote prayers and I need to do better. So I would close my eyes and just pray, hoping to pray myself back to sleep. It did no good. Finally, I started getting up and going into my clothes closet, getting on my knees, and praying. First I'd pray for forgiveness for worrying. Then I'd pray scripture. Then I'd beg. Then I was more sighing than forming words I would get so exhausted from the burden of prayer.
That calmed me. But it wasn't immediate.
Preachers often preach on worry and doubt and prayer and make it seem like you feel immediate benefit from the prayer. Maybe for them, but not for me. It took weeks of waking up in the middle of night in a panic then praying before I started to calm and hear the voice in my head whispering, "God's got this."
Worry, I have decided, can become a habit and bad habits are hard to break. The only thing that broke the worry was the prayer, but the worry wanted to come back quick and, when it did, was like a wave crashing over me, pulling me out to sea.
Praying constantly for myself, however, started to feel selfish. So I started praying for other people too -- random people and friends. I keep a list of people to pray for and try to pray often for them. Now I found myself praying for them to distract me from praying for me all the time. Soon there was a balance to my prayers -- praying for the success of the event, for God to take care of me and my family, then prayers for other people.
About a month ago, as we were locking things into place, Governor Matt Bevin's team called. He was one of the first to confirm and became the first to bail. His team said he needed a private plane and we would have to pay for it. Then Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick bailed. Then one of our sponsors bailed. Then I found out a group in D.C. was pressuring some of our speakers and sponsors to bail on the event, claiming it would be a "Never Trump" event when I had worked hard for it to be a conference to unite conservatives across the board.
Each time this happened, the worries came crashing back trying to pull me out to deep waters. I found myself muttering "God's got this" as if it was a mantra. I found myself praying continually -- in my car, between commercial breaks during my show, in the shower. Often, I was sneaking into empty rooms in my house dropping to my knees where nobody could see me. Often I was waking up at night and literally weeping, just begging for the worries to go away again. And that little voice would come back whispering in my head "God's got this."
Three and a half weeks ago we still had outstanding sponsorship checks, less than 200 people registered, and several speakers yet to lock in completely. I was praying constantly, but also realized I was more and more calm. I had been calling my friend Drew Ryun, who was helping me, telling him it was going to be a disaster. He'd just smile and reassure me that everything was going to be fine. I'd hang up mad because he did not realize the disaster was upon us. But the closer the disaster got, the more calm I got and the more his happy demeanor cheered me up. God's got this.
On July 17, I was in Nashville to see some friends. I forced myself to check out for a day and drove through the night to get there. I prayed just about the whole way there. I realized it was also the first time I had been with a group of friends to just hang out and fellowship together in months. After venting about wanting to quit, wanting to give up, and wanting to walk away, one of the friends I was with walked down the street with me to my car. He said he knew it was stressful and I should not be making career defining decisions while overwhelmed with stress and isolated from other people. He said to just trust God and not to fear. It was calming and also a realization of how easy it is for the worry to creep in when you are isolated and alone.
Two weeks out, we had two speakers still unconfirmed. We had half the sponsorship money still outstanding. We did not have enough money to pay the hotel the final balance. And we had only 201 confirmed attendees. I had been praying so much the worries did not have time to come and I just told myself God's got this.
The end result? We had 300 people show up. All our speakers showed up except Bevin and Patrick, but we wound up getting extra sponsors and their absences freed up the schedule for those sponsors to make presentations. We had enough money in the bank to make the final hotel payment and then some. The conference was a smashing success and no one believed we put it all together in 4 months. We even had protestors!
God had this all along.
The punch line is that I went to church with future Texas Congressman Chip Roy and his wife the day after the conference ended. Kie Bowman, the pastor at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, preached on Matthew 6:25-34, the passage I was mumbling in prayer. Jesus says not to worry and don't be anxious. He says God will take care of us. Kie, concluding his sermon, said a member of his congregation was going through a rough patch a while back, but looked at the pastor and said, "God's got this." Kie had never heard anyone say that before.
Out of the pastor's mouth came those words I heard so clearly as I knelt in my closet praying two months ago. "God's got this," I heard so clearly in my head, though no one said it aloud until the day after my conference ended.
God's got this, but you may not know it immediately and sometimes you just have to realize worrying is a bad habit you must give up to prayer. The worries are driven out by prayer and the more worries there are, the more prayer there must be. Now I've got to go back to prayer because I have an opportunity on the horizon I desperately want and the worries are crashing over me again.
If nothing else, I went for several years thinking I've got this. My daily prayer habits got shallow and rote. That left a void where worries filled. And this experience has given me an opportunity to replace the bad habits of worry with good prayer habits. I hope.