Then there is writing…

I enjoyed writing one of my last posts on writing. I have another thought about writing so I am writing about writing again. Whew…that was a lot of “writing’s.”

I tend to be more of a protagonist but I have this annoyingly overwhelming part of me that is very antagonistic.  In an almost sick kind of way I like being the antagonist. I remember learning about the characters of writing in a Literature of the Bible class in college. It was at the University of Maryland, although I wasn’t in Maryland, I was in Okinawa, Japan. I like the way this writer explains the roles of an antagonist and protagonist. Basically, I am just saying that my personality which is both fighter and peacemaker is what I want to express in my writing and I liken it to the antagonist and protagonist roles in literature.

Side bar: There is something to be said about the richness of University coursework as compared to a community college. Not only am I speaking as a student who attended both but I currently work in an advising capacity at the local community college and appreciate the work we do.  I remember it was the first writing class that I really learned about the elements of literature. Adding this sidebar is one thing I remember learning. And even though its not exactly fitting in this type of writing, I am still doing it anyway; why, because I am a rule breaker and an antagonist.

I don’t like reading all writing, there is a part of me that appreciates all writing because I think I am writer. But in effort to not offend I will refrain from expressing what writing I don’t like.

Let’s just say, I think writing should be real and raw, I think non-fiction writing should stir up and draw out the reader. It should resonate in the soul of the reader. We don’t always have to relate to the experience of the writer but good non-fiction writing should serve as a reminder that all man kind has the same struggles. Most “devotionals” I read don’t do that, they share their struggle superficially and all spiritually (yes that was antagonistic), ask a series of surface level questions in an attempt for you the reader to summarize what you read but not quite reach your heart – their isn’t this soulish exchange through summarizing, it doesn’t address the heart’s cry!

I feel frustrated about the amount of written work on parenting, marriage, friendship, etc., and yet we are still screwed up. We put so much emphasis on obedience and “spirituality” and forget relationship. We  can spend so much time on doctrine and theology that we forget the simplicity of love and the realness of pain. We miss all the barriers, wrong thinking, familiar patterns we learned in our childhood, that we are not free rather we walk around with this heavy yoke around our necks making Christianity look like drudgery!

At first, I spent a lot of time blaming “the church” and I still do because I believe its still the stumbling block to many coming to Christ. But I also see that it has more to do with the weight, or expectation that I put on people since “they have been Christians for blank amount of years” or because they are the “Pastor.” When I remove that expectation from the equation I am left with nothing more than another human just like me with different gifts, strengths and struggles.

Writing is risky especially when you speak of those you care about! As Yancy said of Buechner, at some point its about you writing from your perspective, rather than writing to tell someone else’s story. In this post, I am referencing other areas not exactly related to family secrets as Buechner we referencing but its still the same concept, my Pastor might read this and feel uncomfortable because my perspective involves him indirectly, just like my Mom read my story about her recommending I get an abortion.

My writing brings out or should I say let’s me freely be the protagonist and antagonist in my perspective of life. While the war within is real; I don’t want to offend, I want peace. Part of me wants to be quiet and careful, but I want to write. I do hope to encourage someone out there to be real about what they see, believe or feel – the good, bad and ugly! Writing to me is the place where the writer and reader connect on a soul level and share something common.

Writing About Writing

I am an INTJ. Yep you got it, those are my results from the Myer-Briggs personality test. I am not so inclined to be with people, really, and I know that sounds mean. But I think that’s why I love words. The irony of this though is that my primary love language is quality time. I know… funny right! Well actually I think it’s really awesome – its kind of like the checks and balances of the judicial system – I actually feel somewhat balanced in what seems to be a dilemma!

This post isn’t about personality tests or love languages. It’s about my writing. I am still reading Soul Survivor, currently on the chapter about Frederick Buechner. I was so moved by this chapter that I must write.

At last Buechner had found a voice for his nonfiction. He need not be a theologian like his teachers at Union. He need not be a preacher of sermons. He could simply fashion stories and meaning out of the material of his own life, just as he already did in his fiction…all of them convey Buechner’s personal voice, his deliberate mining of subterranean strata for a hidden message of God. Like a beachcomber, he goes over and over the same patch of sand, seeking buried treasure.

That’s it. I don’t want to write devotions and I don’t want to sound preachy. I just want to tell you about my life, from my perspective, what I see of God, nature, and people. I just want to listen to my life, all the happenings of the day, connect the dots of that day to a prior one, and pull it all together to find meaning.

As a learner, with strengths in ideation and connectedness I am constantly observing the world around me, compiling my ideas about people and God to connect them together intuitively to eventually express in writing.

Knowing my strengths, personality traits and how I feel loved empowers me but I still have trouble with shyness, and putting my stuff out there for the whole world to see, literally!

Every writer must overcome shyness, putting out of mind the fear that we are being arrogant by thrusting ourselves upon you the reader, and egotistical assuming our words are worth your time. Why should you care about what I have to say? What right have I to impose myself on you?

That is exactly what I think.

In fact, I have a recent experience that exemplifies this well. I try to send an email out regularly to a few ladies who are part of my small group. We are studying the Names of God, so I like to stir us up a little and share a little something from the current “Name” we are studying. Well, I began my email in the normal fashion until I felt the Spirit prompting me to say something different. I wasn’t a fan at all about this prompting. So I began typing, starting with almost the same words quoted above, “you may not even read this or care to but I am going to say what I feel I should anyway.” It turns out one of the women woke up at 4 AM a few nights later and read the email and it was exactly what she needed to hear to pray herself back to sleep!

It is one thing to spill your own secrets, and quite another to spill someone else’s. Several times Buechner and I have discussed the occupational hazards of writing, especially the unavoidable wounds we inflict on people close to us.

This was exactly my initial reasoning for dismissing the slightest thought of writing my story. My story involves a lot of people, a lot of people who may not want “their business in the streets.” But I do remember when I began and as I look back at my second post, these were my exact words: don’t want to impose.

For this reason only late in his career did Buechner dredge up certain family secrets…Out of consideration for his mother, who jealously guarded family secrets, Buechner did not write directly of his father’s suicide for decades…Finally Buechner decided that he had as much right to tell his father’s story as his mother had to tell of her husband’s story and his memoirs began to probe the family tragedy.

I concluded that I had a story to tell from my perspective, fully aware I could wound some in the process, I took the risk and started writing. I have no regrets.

Why do we do it, we writers?…I think we do it because each of us has nothing else to offer than a living point of view that differentiates us from every other person on this planet. We must tell our stories to someone.

All quotes come Soul Survivor, by Phillip Yancey.

Unraveling my writing

I struggle with why I write. I also struggle with communicating what I want to write.

I am torn whether I care what people think or whether I don’t. I am not sure if anyone is listening or if that is even why I write. I do know I express myself  best in writing. But why do I write to an audience, or blog? Why not just journal as has been the case for years.

This is what I have asked myself several times since my last post. I have so much to say but after reading previous posts I just feel like I miss the mark of what I really think. As though I either don’t express completely what I really feel or I am afraid to say exactly what I see and think or both.

I know that my life (as every life is) a reflection of God’s faithfulness and that is a worthy thing to share. I also know that when I am hurting and feel insecure and insignificant hearing stories of others overcoming brings encouragement. But why is this such a struggle?

I am reading Soul Survivor by Phillip Yancey. This book was recommended to me when I expressed a discontent with “the church,” not to be confused with God Himself! The book is comprised of short biographies, if you will, of those who have gone before us in the trenches of life. I am so grateful for the stories of people we don’t hear about, the Christians that genuinely epitomize what I see of God. They give me perspective and extinguish some of my doubts about writing (my trench).

This post is not necessarily about my soul surviving the discontent with the church, although I will take this opportunity to share some of what I have gleaned from Yancey, as it is about sharing my struggle to write about what seems to be my menial life that isn’t impacting a whole lot.

I think I am on to something – my struggle with writing and discontent with church folk completely intersect one another. I am just a bit turned off by how Christianity is portrayed in writing and example and yet remembering and writing about how the Lord saw me through dark nights of the soul keeps me grounded, accountable, real, and committed to God. Yancey talks about his need to separate God from church – legalism, self-righteousness, racism, provincialism and hypocrisy. This resonates with me because I am sick and tired of thinking I can live up to some Christian standard apart from the working of the Spirit of God in my life, the work of sanctification by the power and presence of God. I am breaking free from the boxes that feel like chains the “church” has created. My husband thinks I am a rebel. He is probably right.

I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I want to be free to write, free to worship, free to experience the presence of God, not just be a part of a well organized church but a church where the presence of God is exulted all ways! Just like the Christians I read about in Soul Survivor. The forerunners broke rules, they didn’t do what was common, they didn’t come under the majority. In the same way, I don’t want to be a part of the majority of Christian bloggers that give lip service to the virtues of Jesus. Please don’t mistaken what I am saying, there is a place for expounding on the word of God for purposes of instruction and correction, but that in my opinion should be happening a midst a community of believers experiencing the presence of God daily and communally; and this is the gist of my discontent.

As a result of these desires, it seems God is using writing as one way to show me how to be free to express my emotions, thoughts and experiences without regard to what someone thinks about me or what the other Christian writers are doing.

This new way of thinking scares me though, I will be honest, I am not sure I know what this means. And most likely if I were told the outcome of this path I may resort to safer territory. So maybe it is better this way. Of course, those that are part of my story, I must consider, like my husband. Nonetheless, I look forward to yet another story of Gods faithfulness through even this struggle, albeit, small in comparison to more serious matters like my relationships with people.

More to come on the continuation of reading Soul Survivor and my discontent with the church. I sense that God is bringing revival to his people that have experienced more of God than what they see each Sunday.

May the writing carry on, and as I unravel the pieces of my new approach please bear with me, it might get messy.