Wednesday, June 20, 2012

redemption is stories to tell

     "I'd rather know a hard truth than a pretty lie, because until you know the truth you can't do anything about it," I said in my innocent resolve to go to dark places with Jesus' light. And then, to my horror, God took me seriously, and in one year my pretty illusions were stripped away, and I was broken over the truth.
      I wanted to cover me ears and weep; for innocence lost and stolen joy, for how like truth the whispers of a forked tongue feel, for how those whispers feed on silence and grow shame.
      And yet, I hold to my naive resolve, because uncovered to light darkness is dispelled, secrets spoken banish shame, scars bared can finally heal.
      Because I believe wholeheartedly in a God who kisses our scars, I cling fiercely to the hope that "maybe redemption is stories to tell, maybe forgiveness is right where you fell." 
     I feel the brokenness and mourn the pain, but I see first hand the redemption of broken stories told, the gift of going second in someone else's life, the glory of a God who is not content to remove the scars, but uses our darkest places to bring light, freedom from shame to another soul.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

why elevator speeches don't cut it

      Me and Africa. It's such a part of me that sometimes I am surprised, after months of getting to know someone, when I realize they don't know that I plan to move to Africa as soon after graduation as I can. It seems as obvious as the fact that I have brown hair, and more integral to who I am, harder to change. The craziness of a random white girl planning to move to Mali, West Africa, to spend her life playing barefoot soccer and fighting sex trafficking, demands an explanation. But the story behind it is long and strange, and over the last year of small introductions that are part of the everyday life of college, I've come up with an "elevator speech" version to keep it short.
      The conversations would usually go something like this: "Wow, Africa, what makes you want to go there?" "Well, I went there when I was sixteen for two weeks with my dad, and I fell in love with it. There's no way I could not go back."
      This version of events is all perfectly true;  it kept it simple, easy, and more comprehensible than the real thing. But I realized that it also denies the complexity and strangeness of the real story, the glory of the storyteller behind it all.
      So here's a truer "elevator speech" of my story.
     "When I was 10, God told me to be a missionary. I was afraid I was going a little crazy. When I was 12, God was like 'Go to Africa' and a few months later, he added 'Mali, West Africa, to be specific.' At this point, I was certain that I was crazy, God was talking to me. But I decided to trust Him, and went with it. I got a job and saved my pennies till I was 16, when I went to Mali, and found out that neither God or I were crazy, this was what I was created to do."
       It's an insane thing to tell people, announcing you were a twelve year old with a habit of having casual chats with God, that completely up-end your life. But I'm not going to deny it anymore, not going to try and make the truth easier for people. Because the truth is that a God who is anything but simple, or easy, or comprehensible invaded my life and turned it upside down. He called a small town girl who would have been happy to get married, raise babies, live all her life in a house next to her mamma's, to the other side of the planet. When I sacrificed what I wanted, chose to trust that His will (no matter how hard) was the only place I'd ever want to be, I was rewarded with more joy, purpose and passion than I could ever deserve. I fell in love with the red dirt, the white smiles, the strength of a people who choose to laugh in the face of hell.
      Since the age of twelve, I wanted to move to Africa because that was what God wanted me to do. Since the age of sixteen, I've wanted to move to Africa because that is what I want to do too, because the stories He writes for us are harder, stranger and more improbably, incomprehensibly wonderful than anything we could dream up.
      If you let Him, this hard, inscrutable God, who asks of us hard things, will tell a story with your life; a story no elevator speech will ever do justice to.

Monday, June 4, 2012

of scary things, bucket lists, and poetry

Writing is my most vulnerable, and poetry the most so. So last fall when I accidentally agreed to show my English prof. a poem of mine, it was terrifying and exhilarating. And then, at her insistence and encouragement, I found myself reading it to the classroom. It was the emotional equivalent of stripping naked in front of the whole class.
It required more courage than I thought I had (vulnerability always does), but it was incredible empowering, once I got it over with. My prof. said I should try and get it published at Siena, which I was flattered by, but laughed at. Yeah right, I thought. I'd used up all my store of bravery.
But I discovered doing scary things is addicting. Plus "be published, small or big" was on my bucket list. So this spring, in an attack of recklessness, I sent it off the the Pendragon (Siena's literary magazine), before I could panic and take it back.
And I got accepted. So yay! I'm published. It's definitely on the "small" side, but it is a start!
And for the joy of overcoming scary things, I am now sharing it with cyberspace. Enjoy.   

Did you hear them calling, Odysseus? 
Siren song across the wild sea.
Did the sweet sound come back to you in dreams? 
Making you wonder, 
when you had safely stoppered up you ears, 
and sailed away,
returned to reason, 
if that part of you, 
screaming "Treason, treason!" 
treason against their song, 
spoke truth? 
Bleached sculls on white sand. 
Bodies and bones
of unfortunates
who had leapt, 
intoxicated by the wild, 
searing sweetness of their song. 
Madness dancing. 
Where they the lucky ones? 
White sculls, grinning in ecstasy. 
Because they had found it? 
The promise, the pull, the pulse 
of the siren song. 
Life! Unimaginable. 
Had they, in losing their lives, 
found them? 
They were the living ones. 
While you 
were a dead man walking.