I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with writing. For the sake of my own sanity, I do it. But I go long stretches with empty journal pages and half finished poems. I am always afraid when I put my writing out for others to see. Opinions are so cheap these days, truth so distorted and bent out of shape from too many people saying the same things with the wrong words. I want to learn a new language. Ideas, after all, only go as far as the words can take them. I often worry that my words have lost their helium, that many of my ideas and hopes have sunk to the ground because I let everything become a reaction or an argument or some philosophical treatise. Why can’t I just write to write? Who sucked the life out of this?
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
More and more, I am becoming convinced of the power in my own voice. I don’t say it like there’s something special about me. I say it like there is a symphony inside all of us, but we’re afraid to hear it, scared of wrong notes and applause and the beauty we know is there.
Behold, the kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:21
I realize how much I live in fear. How scared I am of my own brokenness, how hard it is to stand in front of a mirror and honestly look myself in the eyes. It is so much easier to distract myself, to numb myself on facebook and tv, relationships and ministry. I am seeing how much religion prevents us from honestly confronting ourselves, how it is what Freud called “the opiate of the people.” For if God is always victorious over our hurts and missteps, if pain does not fit into his archetype of humanity, then what mental, spiritual, and emotional energy should I waste seeing myself for who I really am? If I’m a broken man, isn’t it just easier to claim God’s victory, declare his triumph over my shortcomings, and live in denial about my own humanness?
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. 1 John 4:18
We are simple creatures. Everything is fight or flight. Easy to miss are the ways we continue to fight against ourselves, the ways we continue to run from ourselves. I’m afraid of silence, so I talk. I’m afraid of being lonely, so I numb myself with videogames and a smartphone. I’m afraid of my family, so I go out all the time. I’m afraid of being wrong, so I write blogs and try to prove to everyone that I am competent. When it comes to writing, my words can either become just another fight/flight response, a way for me to rage against or run from my own evils as I see them in other people, or they can be a deeper, more honest and frightening look at myself. I do believe that if my faith does not lead me to confront and even embrace my own brokenness, then it is just another instinctual escape act, a way to flee from or rage against who I really am. It takes moral courage to sit in the tension of your own vices, to look in the mirror and love your flaws.
“I am no longer afraid. I am no longer afraid of being human.” – Florence, at her baptism
I am done with running. I am through with fighting. These distractions are only a faint febreeze on the pile of shit that has been growing for years and years now. It’s time to make some fertilizer. I invite you to do the same. Let your words be mirrors, your essays x-rays, and your similes surgeries. Learn to trust the power in your own voice. Realize that God didn’t want you to be anyone else than who you are today, and if we stopped trying with all our might to enter into God’s kingdom, we might realize that we’ve been there the whole time. When we can be ourselves, fearless to run our hands over our own wounds, unafraid of what the public will think or who will read our thoughts, we will be alive. And the world will be better for it.
“What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are—even if we tell it only to ourselves—because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier that way to see where we have been in our lives and where we are going. It also makes it easier for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own, and exchanges like that have a lot to do with what being a family is all about and what being human is all about.” – Frederick Buechner