[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]
One of the very odd things that I've experienced at the conference so far is that my name (or at least my work) has preceded me. Long before I ever met any of these colleagues, they had my work in their hands, just as I had theirs in my hands. They made judgements about me, about my situation, about my talent as I writer just as I made those same judgements about them. And then, suddenly, we're all face to face, and there is no more hiding behind a cloak of anonymity.
The work that we've submitted has to stand on its own (as it should). You can't attach caviats to it or make excuses for it. You can't change the words, or pretend that they just accidentally lept on your page. You've got to stand behind it, and let people come to know you through it. You've got to own it, and put up a brave front that you are ok with the fact that those words are on the page because you put them there. Willingly. Consciously. Unapologetically.
"Will they laugh at me?" you wonder. "Will they see the truth-- that I'm a child, a novice, someone just running words together on a page? Will they think my story is worth telling, or might they secretly think they could have more fun digging for 'gold' in their nose than reading my work."
It's a vulnerable, naked feeling.
"Graceland" is the name of my favorite song and album. It's by Paul Simon, but more importantly, it's what "home" sounds and feels like to me. We always listened to this album as we traveled from my home in Tennessee to my parents' childhood homes in Florida. But today, it's also a pretty good snapshot of my theology. Somewhere I really believe that the Christian journey is all about a wild trip to Grace-land. As I see it, Grace-land is the place where God is waiting to meet even us–with all the baggage and brokeness that we tote with us. Grace-land is the place where we will be received with open arms, even though our attempts at “getting it right” have been miserable failures at best. But, I think, every step we take is a step on the journey to Graceland.