“Those who cannot be tamed are disturbers of the universe, and without them, we would be infinitely poorer.” -Madeleine L’Engle
I woke yesterday to memes filling my social feeds with greetings of, “May the 4th be with you.” Because, after all, the 4th was indeed with us, and it was world Star Wars Day.
Then, almost on a whim, I checked Twitter and the day exploded into a million fragments needing to be gathered. I don’t use Twitter much anymore. Sorry, Twitterverse. After the last election, it just seemed to become more about fighting culture wars than forging community. And I was happily distracted by all the pretty happening over on Instagram.
But yesterday. Twitter was awash with the news that Rachel Held Evans slipped into eternity during the early hours of the day dedicated to celebrating the story of a scrappy resistance that toppled an unjust empire. Somehow that seems both a cruel irony and uncanny timing all in the same breath.
And, yes Madeleine, we are indeed infinitely poorer.
Rachel was a writer and blogger whose words about faith and community and inclusion changed old conversations with grace and started new ones with vulnerability. She was brave with her life and her writing, and I am forever grateful. Her bravery makes me braver. But that’s kind of how being brave works. It’s contagious.
So we’ve established I’m a fairly abysmal business-only blogger. (There is a handy list of topics on the right sidebar if you are interested in something specific, or if this type of post is just not your kind of thing. No judgment here.)
I’m watching this little corner of cyberspace transition from my neatly buttoned-up business site to a messy scrawl of worlds and words colliding on a screen.
My first instinct. Start a new blog. Something literary. Something that just held my personal journey at a safe distance from my business. Some separate box where I wrote “faith-based” content. Oh, how I have overworked and grown so weary of that word.
Because here’s the truth. All content ever created is faith-based. Because you have to have enough faith in what you’re saying or painting or sculpting to first create it, and then second, to share it.
So here I am getting my brave on. I’m not going to separate my worlds into nice controllable boxes. Because every experience and perspective and step on this journey has made me who I am now. I mean, how the heck am I EVER going to encourage you to live more wholeheartedly and create courageously if I don’t live out of that place myself?
The only words that matter are the ones I live out.
Alright. Let’s talk turkey, ahem, terminology.
When I tell stories that talk about my church experiences or spirituality, I’m never trying to convert, convince, or change you, I’m simply sharing something that’s a part of me and hopefully holding space for a larger conversation that you are absolutely invited into.
I realize for those of us who have walked through any kind of spiritual or religious abuse, some conversations can be like minefields. I will do my absolute best to filter the jargon and define any terms I use because lord knows church-world has enough collective jargon to fill Noah’s ark several times over (if you believe Noah had a literal ark).
Here’s a little personal history because it is really, really hard to interpret meaning apart from the context of the story surrounding it. Seatbelts on…
My journey has spun me through a litany of church versions. I grew up an Episcopal church attender, was baptized Baptist (mostly because part of my college scholarship mandated it), defected to non-denominationalism when I realized the Baptist stance on women after almost giving one of my undergrad professors a coronary by introducing myself as a woman called to write and speak. That was 20 years ago. I spent a little over a decade ordained and leading in the pentacostalesque, charismatic spectrum of churches and organizations until my journey turned me out where I am now… largely outside the organizational church system.
Some people with my experience refer to themselves as “none & dones” or exevangelicals. Those terms have parts that don’t fit exactly for me because I’m not none or done with community, just the unhealthy systems that seek to control it. And after finding out what present-day American evangelicalism embodies culturally-speaking, I realized I never actually belonged there in the first place.
I mean I tried. I really did. I shaved off the edges of who I am in some seasons about as often as I shaved my legs, but the edges (and hair) kept growing back. I made myself fit. Until I realized that true, healthy community doesn’t constrict who you are, it celebrates who you are.
The people who have given me my deepest spiritual understanding and language have all been rooted in contemplative traditions. Brother Lawrence, Teresa of Avila, Mother Teresa, Henri Knowen, Richard Rohr, Madeleine L’Engle, CS Lewis, Brennan Manning, Luci Shaw, the ancient Celtic saints to name a few.
These last 6 years since leaving Africa have been an unraveling and a becoming all at the same time. By any measure of the system I worked in overseas, I was at the pinnacle of success. I had written two moderately successful books and was on an international speaking circuit.
(Those books deeply express my heart in the language I had at the time. I would write most things very differently now. And some things not at all. I am grateful to have written those pages. I just have different words now.)
Then, my health crashed, and a messy, excruciatingly painful journey unfolded. My world got deconstructed, and in 2013 in the space of a few weeks, I lost my home, my vocation, my purpose, what little remaining health I had and 98% of the relationships I expected to walk with the rest of my life. Hey, Job– you and me boo. I get you.
I didn’t think I could survive the loss. And maybe I didn’t. Perhaps that’s what resurrections are all about.
As I wrote a few days ago, if you’re a spiritual refugee or your soul story unfolded in ways you could have never imagined, I don’t just see you, I’m WITH you. I don’t have all the answers, or maybe even any of them, but I am willing to sit with you and hold space to honor your questions, your doubts, your beliefs, your experiences, YOU. Because you have a right to be heard and have your story witnessed.
This sometimes-written business blog is transitioning into more of a blank canvas about becoming, about words and story, creativity, community and yes, I’ll still write my business thoughts here too. But I’m beginning to suspect that Designed to Thrive has much deeper meaning than I ever imagined laying in a dark room with a brain injury last year.
Brave soul, the beautiful thing is that the rising creative economy makes space for those of us who don’t fit in prescribed boxes. Rachel did too.
In her words:
“This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more.” —RHE
I’m still stunned by her loss. Time is the most precious resource we have. May we live and love well, and steward it from the place of knowing we ourselves are deeply, tenderly, and relentlessly loved.