I’ve started to think that there are three main types of writers in my little corner of publishing. There are the scholars, of course, and then there are the preacher/teachers. The preacher teachers, in particular, have caught my attention: they are the ones that have a message to share, a word to teach, knowledge that begs to be passed around, arguments to make, points to delineate. Whatever means necessary to share that particular message or truth – book, podcast, blog, sermon, conference circuit, curriculum, bible studies, every medium – will be embraced. They are preachers, with fire shut up in their bones. They are teachers, with truth and wisdom to impart, and if they need a wrap-around mic to do it, well, bring it on, and the more footnotes, the better.
And then there are the artists and storytellers. (You can guess where I self-identify.)
Even though my book is about a specific topic – it’s a gentle but provocative love letter to the Church about welcoming and affirming women – I approach it as art, not a message to be preached, or an argument to be made. I approach it as truth-telling, absolutely, but using beauty and holy discomfort, storytelling, and my own voice. I approach my work with a lot of fear and trembling, and when I sit down at the computer, and I pray and pray and pray before I write.
I read poets, not Christian living curriculum, I read memoirs, not how-to books with fill-in-the-blanks. My patron saints are Kathleen Norris, Madeline L’Engle, Anne Lamott, Mary Oliver, Luci Shaw. I read my Bible like a love letter, not for systematic theology and chart-making. I don’t want people to read my work and think that anyone could have written it, no, it’ll be all my own baby. I know that this book won’t pass as a textbook even thought it’s filled with truth, because it’s art, not science.
I believe that beauty and art honours God. I believe writing is my sacrament, and I have a pathological need to write and write and write about the things that interest me, and catch my eye. My next book will be about how I fell back in love with the body of Christ, after years of desert-wandering and resentments.
But my next book after that could be about my marriage, and the next book after that could be about how I referee street hockey games for a multi-cultural group of kids in my front street, and the next book after that could be about birth and breastfeeding, and the next book after that could be about social justice & poverty or maybe my husband’s garden or my mother or my kitchen sink.
You see? I just need to write, and I want to write for the rest of my life, and so I write about the places where I see God. This is my altar, my offering, my temple, my sacrifice, and I meet God here, at the computer, over and over and over again.
I just love that you’re here to partake with me.
I worry that people misunderstand the work I do, because I am a writer that is a Christian. I am not a Christian writer, that’s not an adjective I embrace. I worry that they might confuse me with a preacher or a teacher or a message-bringer, when the thought of speaking to groups of people makes me very nervous, and don’t get me started about fill-in-the-blanks being developed or book clubs convening, and I sort of resent the idea of being a mascot or, heaven forbid, a spokesperson or representative for anything.
I don’t even really like to talk about the things I write here in this little blog with other people, it makes me feel like someone just noticed I’m standing naked in the middle of the room, vulnerable while everyone else marches in suits of armour, I already said what I needed to say, I’ve moved on, let’s not pick it apart. I can’t imagine having to talk to people about Jesus Feminist.
I’m not an argue-er, or a debater, or a defender of the truth. I don’t have the energy to be outraged much anymore, I have supper to get on the table and laundry to fold, tinies to bath and friends to call. I don’t want to be the mascot of Christian feminism, I want to create, and when I am done, I want to let the work speak for itself. I’m a living-room chatter, not a stage performer. (This is a pipe dream, I know. I understand how the publishing world works, and I have committed to play my role. But that’s it: it feels like playing a role to do interviews or promotions or whatever.)
The times when I have tried to put on the mantle or calling of preacher or teacher, I have failed miserably. I would spend time, crafting a message, working diligently at an essay or a post, to make a specific point or teach a particular thing, and these posts, they always fly out the window and land with a dull reverberating thud on the ground below. But the posts or essays that I write for the joy of creation, when the muse is present, and I simply need to write and I have no agenda beyond saying what needs to be said, for some reason, those are always the posts that take off. Go figure. Lesson learned.
I can’t attach expectations – mine or anyone else’s – to my work, I simply need to do the work God has given me to do.
So I can’t work on this book as if I am a preacher or a teacher. I love preachers and teachers, theirs is a valuable and beautiful calling.
But I need to write as God has created me: I need to write like an artist, with my own voice, in my own way – without agenda, without points to make, without the weight of being a spokesperson for everyone that cares about this issue or is looking for a mascot or a caricature for their dart board, without plans for what-comes-next or pressure, without a thought of the haters and the angry fault-finders, without wrap-around mics or glossy headshots. I simply need to write and honour the work that God has given me to do, right now, to create it, bum in chair, word after word, and make a sacrament of it, day after day after day. God, draw near and move on these waters. And I need to fold the laundry, for the love.
(As I work on my first book, I have discovered I must write about the process and work of it. I hope you can bear with me as these posts may show up now and again, even if they are a bit more navel-gazing. As always, I don’t know what I think until I write it out. Thanks for your patience.)