I’ve been challenged over the last couple of weeks to be more honest in my writing, to share more of the hard pieces, not just the “God lessons” that are coming from these stories that comprise my life. Although the God lessons are good and necessary and keep me moving forward, do I have the courage to tell a story that I don’t know the lesson of yet?
What about a story that doesn’t show me at my finest?
I’ve been long impressed with Addie Zierman’s When We Were on Fire. And while so much of what she writes resonates with me, because she confronts the things about growing up in the evangelical church that rub raw in the adult world, I’m most impressed by the honesty with which she asks her questions and tells her story. She shares the pieces that don’t show her at her finest. Six months later, I’m still asking myself if I have the courage to do the same.
I’m not so sure that I do, at least not yet. But, after a not stellar weekend in which I had one of my not finest moments, I’m realizing a couple of things.
First, that even asking if I have the courage to tell those hard stories is the first step in finding the courage to tell them.
Second, that what my friend Beth said a couple of weeks ago when I was recounting a moment from another hard weekend is true – “The only way forward is open.”
Beth, over the course of a twenty year friendship, has earned the right to call me on my stuff. We sat again at our favorite coffee shop, laptops open but no words being typed because the conversation was more important. She told me that in the aftermath of this recent breakup that she was afraid for me. She was afraid that I would let this be something that I used to justify building back up the walls that I had worked so hard to take down. She was afraid that I would become angry and isolated and depressed, as I had after every breakup before. And she grabbed my hand, and looked me in the eye, and she said, “For you, the only way forward is open.”
I’m realizing that this is a life lesson, a God lesson actually. (Sometimes figuring that out comes simply as I write. Funny that.) C.S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves,
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
I keep thinking about this, about how right Lewis is – “To love is to be vulnerable.” It sounds a whole lot like my friend telling me – “The only way forward is open.”
This is how I want to move forward, from this not stellar weekend and from my stupid decision and in my life in general. I don’t want to be ashamed to tell my stories, the ones replete with God lessons and the ones that are just ridiculously human. I don’t want to live so worried about what people are thinking about me, about what they’re holding against me every time I have a drink or get a tattoo or pierce my nose. I want to lean into the people who hold me accountable without casting judgments. I want to figure out what forgiveness is really about, as others offer it to me and I offer to others and I offer it to myself. And I want to remember on my not finest days that tomorrow is another day to try again.
Because the only way forward is open. And probably a little bit more honest.