“To be engrossed by something outside ourselves is a powerful antidote for the rational mind, the mind that so frequently has its head up its own ass—seeing things in such a narrow and darkly narcissistic way that it presents a colo-rectal theology, offering hope to no one.”
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
Navel-gazing is one thing. A “colo-rectal theology” puts a whole other spin on it.
So often, we think we’re so smart when we’re anything but.
I should be even more honest here. What teachers and adults often thought was quiet confidence, I was both too proud and self-assured, and too terrified of being seen. I was too in control of my world and too afraid to show my feelings and let anyone know me.
If I didn’t show myself, maybe I could remain unharmed. And that worked for a while. Sort of.
Now I write continually asking a different question. Am I willing to show this? And even further, Am I willing to be uncertain?
Because I never know if it’ll be useful. That’s not what’s important. What matters is if I trade my rational control, can I be lost in bewilderment, willing to trust and go forward anyway?
Sometimes, life’s full of inspiration and insight that comes pouring out. But that isn’t its usual state. Life is uncertain. So many people want to tell you what life means. But life means uncertainty.
My post last week was about believing that the struggle is a necessary part of the beauty that will eventually be revealed. I quoted three writers on what that struggle to wait looks like for them. Then I said:
“If you understood the truth of the BLESSING coming, you’d understand the magnitude of the battle you are fighting….If you could measure the size of the result of your persistence, you’d know the reason the one thing he asks for is faith.”
It was encouraging to remember that everyone struggles to believe.
On Tuesday the 3rd, when Harper Lee’s new book was announced, I felt God rekindling something in me from long ago that had been burning low: “Will you simply believe and trust Me regardless of what things look like?”
I don’t know why that was the message I sensed, but I wanted to say yes.
I didn’t think being willing to wait in bewilderment was a key measure of maturity, but for me, I think it just might be. When the evidence of my foolishness, my incapability, my lack of conviction and immaturity and fitness to carry this vision I’ve been assigned–when it all comes parading before me, can I accept and wait there in confusion? Can I choose to respond with the all-important willingness to accept “I don’t know,” and write in the darkness anyway?
That’s hard. That’s not certainty or control. That’s something else.
That’s got to be a place of faith. That’s saying yes to God’s question: Will you simply trust and believe? Instead of fighting to prove myself, can I lay that down? Instead of faking everything’s fine, will I just believe he knows what the point of this waiting is?
Instead of giving up, holing up, clamming up, will I trust that he knows more than I what’s coming, and speak anyway? Instead of making a selfish grab for attention, will I make room for the stabler foundation he is building, i.e. the only thing that can and will speak of a higher purpose?
I want to choose to simply step forward anyway in faith that the guiding light will find me and illuminate the way.
What if beyond characters, our own character is the real point? What if getting this now is what prevents us from getting hurt when we do publish? What if we did get out of this waiting what we really needed by not getting out of it?
Could we give our reader what they truly long for amidst publisher demands and a want-driven market?
Patience. Wisdom. Something larger than yourself and your weak human nature.
All we may need when we’re unsure and afraid is not power or insight, but a powerful trust in the sovereignty of God over all we do. That is the one thing irreplaceable. And won’t we learn it if we’re only willing to endure the angst and pain of waiting in bewilderment for the answer to come?
Maybe the best answer is the simplest:
I don’t know.
For the higher purpose,