Hello to all who read this.
As much as I love writing, and as much as I love talking about myself, I’ve never quite been able to pull off blogging. My ideas generally come either too thick and fast to catch, or not at all. I scribble notes at inopportune times in unlikely places, and then sit in front of a blank screen for long, painful minutes, my words somehow having lost all magic. I have no illusions that this will be a valid representation of my thoughts… but it’s such a wonderful idea that I at least wanted to make the effort. The idea of people from a church community making a concerted effort to express their feelings and opinions and struggles, and make them open to one another, and invite dialogue and conversation, is an idea that is long overdue.
I thought I had something meaningful to say here today. Eventually, I may supplement with songs and poems and past ponderings. For now, though, I’d like to share an anecdote. On Tuesday night I had the pleasure and the privilege of hearing playwright Tony Kushner (“Angels in America” among other things) speak at the University of Iowa. He is a brilliant, thoughtful and well-spoken man, and I would give much to have thought to bring a notepad to chronicle his most compelling comments. One thing he said, though, struck me deeply enough that I don’t think I could forget. He was asked by an audience member how he feels about calling himself a “writer,” and if he’d ever had any doubts (the fella asking the question was a recent college graduate who often felt awkward at parties because of the looks from his classmates when he threw his identity as “writer” up against their own “real” careers of banker, lawyer, etc.)
Kushner talked about how he felt that ANYone who does anything that matters tends to feel like a fraud. He imagined what it must feel like to call yourself a “nuclear physicist” when after all, it’s not like being Neils Bohr. He said that sometimes, yes, it is weird to fill out a form and under “Occupation:” put “writer.” However, he said: “There are words that make you embarrassed, and I think those are the most valuable.”
“There are words that make you embarrassed, and I think those are the most valuable.”
Amen and amen. This struck me deeply in a couple of ways. First, because it described so precisely the feeling I had on Saturday night, when my band played our first gig. No matter how deeply I feel that singing is at the very core of my being, I still have a hard time applying the label of “singer” to myself. It feels utterly fraudulent. *Doing* it felt utterly fraudulent. Listening to people’s comments afterward was profoundly uncomfortable, because it didn’t feel at all real… but it WAS real. Everyone there knew it. They treated me like a singer, because I am. It’s just that it’s embarrassing to acknowledge a reality outside of my own experience of myself.
Likewise, the other reason Kushner’s comment resonated with me: it applies just as clearly to issues of faith as to issues of occupation. It can be profoundly uncomfortable to name oneself a “Christian.” In part, it’s because we always feel like we can’t measure up to those who came before us – just as the average nuclear physicist isn’t Neils Bohr, the average Christian is hardly, say, Dwight Moody.
More, though, I think that it’s because it’s embarrassing to acknowledge a reality outside our own experiences. We live inside our heads – sometimes all we can see is our sin and shame, just like sometimes all I can hear are my dropped notes and forgotten lyrics… but that’s not the only reality. Whether we’re comfortable claiming it or not, if we behave in a genuine manner, the world will know. We can’t deny it, it’s part of who we are. However, if we allow our embarrassment to get the better of us, the world will assume that it’s our faith that shames us, and they will start to see us as the frauds we fear that we are. If we own it – if we acknowledge the reality instead of fearing it – then they will be drawn to us like moths to a flame, and will see the value of our faith in us.
Like always, the things that I start out thinking are profound end up boiling down to simplicity. None of this is new, or unknown… but it can still be a source of struggle. At least, for me it can. I hope any readers out there enjoy my writings. Thanks.