the things we give away

Do you remember that time I wrote a series of blog posts about Philippians? (If you do, you officially qualify as a “loyal reader” and will get invited to VIP events or something just as soon as I’m famous.) If you actually somehow remember that time, you may also have a superhuman-enough memory to recall that I never posted the series’ final post.

One or two people asked me about this at the time, and I lied to them. I acted like I just never got around to copying, pasting, and publishing the words I had already written. Somewhere in my brain, it made more sense to sort of lie by omission in order to be perceived as a forgetful, lazy person than to tell the truth and be perceived as a neurotic weirdo. But one year later, I am willing to confess why the final Philippians post was doomed to languish in a folder all alone.

I didn’t post the final post because before it went up, I got my grades back, and I had an A minus in the class.

I got an A minus in the class, which I am not sure was even because of that project. But it didn’t matter. I had failed and my work was unacceptable and because it maybe wasn’t perfect, I kept it from you.

So, yeah, neurotic weirdo.

This same thing just happened to me again. I had lots of research for my Master’s thesis under my belt and I was ready to start writing, and then I got my first-ever reply from my first-ever journal submission.

Final decision: Rejected. My article didn’t fit in with the journal’s scope and subject matter; and the short email included NARY a “You are clearly a wunderkind, but…”

I gave disappointment about a half a second and then shooed it out of the room. I tried very hard to metaphorically toast my defeat as evidence that I was living my life and trying hard things. I even got down to some sick beats with T. Swift. But it was like I had a Charlie Brown raincloud over my head, except it was the word “Rejected” insistently hovering with its own self-satisfied finality. I kept a smile on my face, but I was paralyzed.

The first deadline for my thesis was last week, so I eventually had to sit down and start. I stared down that Word document and all the research notes I’d continued to pile up in order to avoid the writing part, nervous and sullen. I checked Facebook again, and stared at my notes again.

A sentence came to me, and I managed to begin before I’d noticed what I was doing.

I spent the next two days writing. It was fantastic. I forget how much I love words and ideas, sitting with the thoughts – one at a time, until the sentences form themselves, like butter and flour in your warm hands roll up suddenly into dough. One thought at a time, I tapped out the beginnings of a major accomplishment. I even figured out what the paper’s going to say.

I have always loved words and ideas. Long before it ever occurred to me to “accomplish” anything, it was impossible to stop me from reading books. I have childhood memories of being distressed that I could never read them all. By the end of eighth grade, it turned out I’d exhausted the young adult section. Writing, for me, is not an activity. I am always writing, somewhere in my brain, always worrying words into place. And when I actually sit down and actually wrestle them onto the pages, Eric Liddell and I are kin; I feel the pleasure of God.

Precisely because my writing is so bound up with my identity, I am all too willing to hand my work over to people who never asked to also take responsibility for all these snowflake-fragile bits of myself. I let comments on my writing send me into fits of delirious rapture as well as these depths of self-loathing despair. I toss my future, my gifts, and my heart onto a roulette wheel in hopes of winning a giant teddy bear – regardless that God’s pleasure has already been won every time I simply choose to be myself.

For Lent, I am going to write every day (not necessarily here, but somewhere). I am going to do one of those things I was made to do, without making the excuses my inner perfectionist concocts to keep me from accidentally doing imperfect things. I am going to dig into the messiness of actually doing this thing, instead of taking comfort in fantasies about doing this thing and never being hurt by it.

And even though my heart will always be in the work, that doesn’t mean I’m going to wrap it up in tissue paper and keep it in folders. But I won’t just thrust this thing into your hands, either. You can borrow the work, but my heart is in God’s library.

Literally. I’m quite sure God has a castle full of books, and some part of me already lives there. In case we all get to heaven and you want to find me, I’ll probably start with British novels.

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3 Comments

  1. Morgan Guyton

     /  February 26, 2015

    i enjoy your writing. I’m subscribed to dozens of blogs. I read very few of them. But y

    Reply
  2. Morgan Guyton

     /  February 26, 2015

    But yours always catches my eye. Thanks wunderkind.

    Reply
  3. Thanks for reading and encouraging. It is a huge gift.

    Reply

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