Writing When Frail
I remember when I was in eighth grade, I'd just come back to earth from an Acquire the Fire weekend-long youth group conference experience where the flames of evangelical fervor had been blasted into my soul with all the bellows of American pyrotechnic religion. Sitting in math class, I had my cool new Acquire the Fire light-up pen in hand, and Mauricio Esparza wanted to know where it came from. He just genuinely thought it was a cool pen, but I knew what was really going on: the Holy Spirit was calling me to witness to the gospel.
So, naturally, I did everything in my power not to tell him.
I pivoted and punted every way I knew how. This pen? Ah, I don't know man. Just some ol' thing I grabbed somewhere. Dunno, dude. Uh, class is starting.
The gospel I attempt to give speech to these days sounds different from the (penal substitutionary atonement, fear of hell, moral perfection, and eternal salvation from individualized and original sin-centric) version I clammed up about back then. But speaking gospel as I understand it is still just as difficult.
The source of difficulty is different though.
I want to write a book. I'm in that 'process,' have already written a good deal (mostly a couple years ago), and am trying to finish a manuscript. But I keep freezing. Each letter screams against my own insecurities, uncertainties, and downright ignorance. I remember a classmate saying something like - postmodernity dies the moment a word hits the page. Or something like that that impressed me.
I'm not writing a memoir. I'm making a case for some ideas and explanations of "the way things are. "My internal ambiguities have to, if not disappear (in hopes that some humility might still peek through once in a while), then at least take a back seat to the stand I make on issues. All this hit me a couple years ago, too, the last time I wanted to write after a good hiatus. Unsure of my own voice, afraid of getting it wrong.
The biggest problem I feel is: who the hell am I? Most of the people I know these days are smarter, better read, more grounded spiritually, and more effective politically than I am. The complexity and layeredness of all our cultural crises and baggage is more than anyone has a right to claim a handle on -- especially me. The theoretical smugness of my seminarian days weakened significantly in the face of my practitioner shortcomings, continually metastasizing political quagmires, and the daily suffering faced by actual people. Things don't seem to be improving, and it throws some serious shade on my claims to grasp the issue.
And we haven't even touched the existential and ethical dilemmas of being a white, male, middle-class, privileged everything attempting to speak into this milieu.
There's probably some life lesson I could prop this note up on to make it a relevant blog. That which is most personal is most universal, right? (as roughly said by most wise folks, but I read it first from Henri Nouwen, and he didn't cite anyone so I'll give him credit)
But whatever that lesson is, I'm still looking to learn it. Is my own inadequacy worth projecting onto others? Won't my shortcomings just mislead those behind me, and piss off those ahead? I'm still stuck spinning in these questions every time I turn to the screen.
I don't know. I just want to keep trying, however frail. It's impossibly cliche, but I want to keep struggling forward for the sake of my friends who keep getting the shit beat out of them and for my Christ who knows what that's like. From somewhere I hope I find guidance to finish what I started; to be a faithful disciple and friend in solidarity; to write in Christ, for shalom, through love, with joy, and implaced. Whatever it is, I hope to recapture my "why" and discover words to speak.