Friday, January 18, 2013

Capable of Creative Work

I’m back and promise – well hope – to keep the entries coming a bit more regularly from now on.  But, this blog is called “good enough” for a reason.  Anywho, I launched Good Enough Together in October with a very brief overview of my intentions and some highlights of my insights and aspirations.  Now, I’d like to explain further my purpose for this blog.

In some ways it feels vain to implicitly suggest that you all – the public or at least my extended network of friends & acquaintances – might need to hear something that I have to say.  Of course, I have an ego & I won’t deny the secret hope/delusion that this blog will become followed by millions leading to a publishing deal.  But I am confident that my desire to blog and my decision to post publicly is grounded in a deeper & ultimately more beneficial motivation.  This is about my desire to flourish - not in some competitive manner but in a way that honors what I have been given & those from whom I have received so much – my parents, my wife, my family, my friends, my mentors, my critics, my Creator.

So, let’s start at the beginning.  Why do I write?  I write because it serves me.  Writing is a process of discernment and discovery.  Henri Nouwen describes the value of writing this way:
“Writing is a process in which we discover what lives in us.  The writing reveals to us what is alive in us.  The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write.  To write is to embark on a journey of which we do not know the final destination.  Thus writing requires a great act of trust.  We have to say to ourselves: ‘I do not yet know what I carry in my heart, but I trust that it will emerge as I write.’  Writing is like giving away the few loaves and fishes one has, trusting that they will multiply in the giving.  Once we are to ‘give away’ on paper the few thoughts that come to us, we start discovering how much is hidden underneath these thoughts, and thus we gradually come in touch with our own riches.”  Yeah, what he said.

And it is not just about me.  I also write because it offers the opportunity to say things that I might not normally have the time or courage to say in a face-to-face conversation.  It offers a depth of exchange that so few of our interpersonal communications allow for amidst the hustle & bustle of life.

So, why post some of my most personal thoughts and fragile insights?  I share because I long to be more fully known.  I share because I want to take a stand.  I share because occasionally it creates a unique opportunity for others to open up – or at least recognize that they are not alone.  Sharing cultivates connection and intimacy.  Sure, it’s risky but I have found it to be incalculably rewarding.  My time as a chaplain brought this into focus for me in palpable & transformative ways.   

Of course, I have to remind myself that my writing is “good enough.”  For so long I have not written & shared because I was waiting until I could articulate perfectly or at least achieve that high standard of “publishability”.  I have been protecting myself from criticism.  I have played it safe at the expense of my learning and growth.  So, I am acknowledging that I am an amateur writer that will only improve by sharing my words and receiving feedback.  And whether speaking, writing or singing, this is my voice.  This voice will be so many things at once.  It will be poignant & it is sure to be cheesy.  It will be cowardly & courageous.  It will be confident & it will be tentative.  It will be liberating & oppressive.  It will be in-tune & out-of-key.  But it is my voice – a voice no more or less important than any other voice – that I have learned needs to be part of this cacophony of sound that occasionally blends together to make music.  I choose to sing not because I judge myself a great singer but because I have a song, as Martin Sexton croons, “burning a hole in me.”  I believe each of us does.  That is a premise of my emerging theology of which I’ll share more in the months to come.
So how has divinity school contributed to this journey – this process of discovery and growth?  It humbled me by helping me to more deeply recognize the unearned privileges of being white and male.  It introduced me to the stories of the minimized, ignored, neglected & oppressed – those voices that are often silenced or misrepresented by the “winners” who write history.  It emboldened me through a newfound camaraderie with historic voices of courage & dissent – like Arius, Teresa of Avila, Michael Servetus, Howard Thurman, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Albert Camus, Dorothy Day, and Elizabeth Johnson.  It inspired me through relationships with colleagues who modeled a fierce and unwavering advocacy for social justice.  I cultivated skills of listening, reading generously, critical thinking & writing.  I learned the importance of consulting primary sources and the responsibility to be precise in my use of language.  It provided time & opportunity for reflection that enabled me to “connect the dots” of my story, weaving my experiences into a narrative of meaning & thus hope.  Thomas Merton articulates the necessity of action that is grounded in much more than good intentions:

“He who attempts to act or do things for others or the world, without deepening his own self-understanding, freedom, integrity, and capacity to love will…communicate to them nothing but the contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressiveness…his doctrinaire prejudices and ideas.”

So, in future posts I will share what I wrote along the way as well as compose new collections of observations.  I will reflect on the brilliance & eloquence I encountered in the midst of reading more than 25,000 pages of theological texts.  I will share stories of profound encounters with suffering people.  It is my sincere hope that this process will indeed deepen my self-understanding and capacity to love and thus minimize the spread of my contagions.  My ultimate aim is again expressed eloquently by Henri Nouwen. 

"The greatest trap in life is not success, popularity, or power but self rejection.  As soon as we feel at home in our own house, discover the dark corners as well as the light spots, the closed doors as well as the drafty rooms, our confusion will evaporate, our anxiety diminish, and we will be capable of creative work." 

Thank you for reading, for listening, for accompanying me into my "dark corners and drafty rooms."  Thank you, in advance, for your compliments & critiques.  Thank you for not only indulging but also affirming me as I strive to continuously emerge into a more full, more integrated, more whole self - in relationship with others, in community with you.  I hope you will respond in your voice, with your stories.  We have much to learn from each other.  We are capable of creative work. We are indeed good enough together.  

[I also learned the importance of sighting sources so I need to give props to my professor and academic advisor, Dr. Bonnie Miller-McLemore, for the mantra of “good enough” culled from her book Also a Mother: Work & Family as Theological Dilemma.]