I am human. Join me. (Thoughts on faith, confession and writing)

Part two of … this.  A response.

You know it’s funny.  Several people responded to what I wrote today with what I found to be a slightly odd, or at least a surprising response to me.  Okay, odd isn’t fair.  They expressed concern.   You need to know something. If I have gotten to the place of putting my thoughts down, I have lived it — bled it — known each word like a friend.  I am on the other side enjoying the lesson, learning and knowing I am beloved.  The things I write while true still, are not cloaked about me oppressively.  

You see, no matter how many times I have to learn it — like the Israelites who were incredibly short sighted, foolish and distrusting of God, over and over — I do know I am a beloved child.  I do. Don’t worry so about me.

I read an interview with Anne Lamott, a writer that I adore.  When asked about her writing about her faith (since she’s “pretty outspoken, eccentric artist—a quality we love and admire in her. How does she successfully reconcile the perhaps stereotypical connotations of ‘Christian’ in this polarized day and age—when Christian in the political sense often means an extreme conservative—with her clearly open-minded, open-hearted point of view and way of living.”)

Oh yeah, that.  I can relate.

She said:

“That’s a complicated question. A good question. You do the best you can. A certain percentage of self-identified Christians think I am doomed and just fucked beyond all imagining because I don’t believe the Bible is the literal word of God. I’m a progressive Christian. I’m more of a liberation theology person.

My religious life, my life as a recovering alcoholic, my life as a writer, and life as a public person are the center of my life along with Sam and Jackson [Sam’s son].   People are going to think what they think. It’s called “another thing I have no control over.”

And when asked about her writing process she confessed unabashedly, “Right now I have prepublication jitters, mental illness, and distraction.”

Here is what I think, we are all simply human.  And in writing about our “walk” with faith, some are more honest than others.  I try to be crystal clear, yes even hopelessly honest. That’s my style, my voice, my path.  Sure, I hope one day to write out of a place of certainty.  Just when I wish for that, then I know that I don’t really hope for that.

I carry the scars of my life, not proudly — as if — but I am not ashamed of them either. I am a child of a raging man, who was verbally abusive and controlling.  That makes me different than a lot of kids who grew up with unconditional love and certainty.  I am an alcoholic (in recovery.)  It is a part of my dna and I will write about it.  I’m a compulsive, addictive person — whether it be to Facebook, or Farmville, or television shows like Stargate, watching episode after episode for hours — and I will never have all the answers for why I am like that.  I will never know complete release from that this side of heaven.  That’s what I think.  That much is absolutely certain. But this won’t sink me, it will push me.  Humble me.  Help me to know how much I need God, and the community of believers. And what I must do is be a person that is committed to the spiritual disciplines of prayer and study, to the humble place of making callouses on my knees, and to surrendering myself to service of others.

Daily, hourly.  Sometimes moment by moment, this sweet surrender admission of my broken places.  That’s me.

Reading the incredible words today from Enuma Okoro who said in an essay on faith and the writing life, written to people who seek her wisdom, she said:

“Engaging in the craft of creative writing is where they feel most alive and the means by which they feel most passionate about witnessing to “the things about which [they] have been instructed” (Luke 1:4 NRSV).  … These men and women seek counsel on discerning how writing can be ministry and where they might turn for support and encouragement in understanding how faith and writing intersect…

and she said later:

“Take the leap of faith and trust in your gift to proclaim God’s word in new ways.” I hope I can grow into the sort of mentor who recognizes the writing gift and call in others and boldly and daringly says to them, “Write for the love and power of words. Write for the love of God.””

So, dear friends know this. When I write about the pain of being an artist in the church, or of being a feminist in an evangelical church or the f-word being a dirty word, or my struggles to totally surrender to God’s absolute love, I am simply telling you that I bleed.  I am human. Won’t you join me?

On Silencing Myself

But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.  — Jeremiah 20:9

For days now I have been nursing wounds that feel as new today with each intake of breath, as they have been heavy all these years of living.  Each breath that keeps me alive hurts.  The ache and injury that I have carried for as long as I recall tell me that I am overdue for spiritual healing.   The stones in my heart both compel me and keep me humbled.  But I have allowed them to overpower me and shut me up.

And this limits my service, my usefulness to God.  I have allowed my brokenness to become a crutch.  Ironically, though I want him to I don’t think God will ever take this away completely, the very things that make me who I am. But He may, I hope and pray heal me to a point of being useful.  That is all I ask really to be useful to Him.

I have developed a small following here, a few hundred reading off and on, from time to time.  The more people that follow my words, it becomes a burden, opportunity and responsibility all intertwined.  I am so conscious of all that I have developed, a voice, emerging to be sure but still a voice.   That is one reason why I believe I need biblical studies, because I am all too aware of my own ignorance. And I am becoming aware of the fact that people listen to me.

And this is what I told my friend, and pastor, as I met with her recently.  As she spoke to me of my talents as a writer and encouraged me to take it more seriously, even work to develop my voice and audience, I felt inept, inadequate.  I know my own level of  ignorance biblical and otherwise!   Was it a coincidence that her words echoed with what another important person in my life had said to me only a few hours earlier?  The person that knows me best and in whom I trust the most is my husband.

They say I am to write. 

For a long time I have been asking God what I should do with this obvious ability to put words together in a compelling way.  Coupled with the desire he has given me to care for others, my unusual inquisitiveness and naturally challenging mind, a constantly questioning spirit, and eyes that see injustice all around me.  Compound that with the extra burden of a heart that is utterly broken by the ancient pain and silencing of women in the church.  Why does he break my heart so relentlessly over women who are stifled and smothered, yes silenced in the church? These are the things that others have been affirming in me and I have been asking God what He would possibly have me do with it?  I believe that if we are to live authentically as Christians we are to live by doing justice. (See Micah 6:8) I believe all Christians are to serve the poor, the widow, the orphan and the alien which  was also one of Jesus’ more frequent and strongly worded commands (see Matthew 25:31-46 )  So how does all of this fit with how I am gifted by God?      

Before Christmas.

As I mentioned, I met briefly with a pastor from my church.  This person is also my life group leader.  We have many things in common.  We hadn’t met alone for many years and I found myself worrying about whether she met with me as a person in her flock or as a friend.  I felt confused as we talked because, as much as I longed for our friendship to be mutual, I was suffering.

(((Here is where I confess that I am a very controlling person, overly proud and always over thinking and managing my image and reputation before others.  That is why this blog is essential to my desire to be an honest person.  As a recovering alcoholic, I struggle to be truthful.  Addicts are liars, to themselves and to those they love.  And I don’t want to be a liar. )))

I did not want to tell her how badly I have been doing nor confess that I was in the pit of depression.  It felt extremely weak, even threatening to my reputation (for whatever it is worth) at my church.  If I was ever to be accepted into the cadre of leaders at my church, to admit that the state of my self-esteem was lower than it had been in years, was excruciating!  This weakness was unacceptable.  To confess the bleary, bleak thoughts I have been consumed with for months was painful.  I needed a friend, but to share with her my state of mind, my fears and self-doubts, and my anger was almost impossible

It was embarrassingly awkward to admit that I was so low, that things had become so bewildering, and that I had actually sat in church two weeks earlier believing that my life was not worth living because I had nothing to offer God.

But somehow I did tell her. As she calmly listened and said that I must have been under spiritual attack (being that the suicidal thoughts occurred in church) I felt such relief, yes a spiritual attack was very likely!  And although thankfully that fog has lifted a bit, I think that I have continued to be under attack in the weeks since, at my core, in the place where I feel the most unloved and unlovable.    Depression is isolating.  You hear lies shaking about in your head that are ludicrous and yet wholly believable in the moment.  These things, which I know are not from God, have hurt so much.  And it has taken everything to not fall prey to the misery, and the pain of rejection and to most of all not fall prey to accepting the evil thoughts as truth.

I have felt in the last two months like the evil one is trying to destroy me via my mind, and my heart, and is trying to crush my soul that I may succumb to some madness but I am clinging to what I know.   He who is within me is a greater than he who is in the world.  

So this is my confession to you, those that read my blog both friends and strangers. I am hurting.  Though I am profoundly weak, I know He is strong.  

I don’t know what the future holds.  I cannot say.  I cannot see anything clearly.  All I know for a fact is that I am inadequate.  I don’t know how I am to be used, to be useful.  I feel inadequate to be a voice for anyone.  I feel inadequate to write about much of anything.

And because of it my human impulse is to be silent, to silence myself.   I have so many good excuses for silencing myself …  That I don’t know enough.  That I don’t have the training.  That I don’t have the knowledge and experience.  That for a long time I have been at home and not actively working.  That I am no longer actively serving in ministry. That I struggle with depression and all that goes with it.  That I am broken.  That some days, just breathing hurts.

Would you pray for me?  That I would somehow know the real Truth and listen well.  And, that I would know when to speak out and when I should be silent.  And more than anything that I would become stronger in Him.  This is the irony, the tension of being broken and still being useful, about feeling unloved and yet being totally loved by God.

Pray with me that this blog, which has become a place of responsibility and opportunity, would honor God.   Would you pray with me that I would know how I am to use it this year — for good, for healing, for teaching and most of all for blessing others? And if he was going to do a work of healing in my life, now would be a good time! And as I actively pursue other writing avenues and even perhaps further education, that I would remain steadfast in Him.  

I hope your new year begins and ends in Him.