As important as it is to minister from those wounded places, to preach about real emotional issues, and to write from a place of spiritual depth, there is also danger in it—for us and for our communities.
As we’re all in the midst of Advent longing, I realize that I’m turning 40 in a couple of days. Which puts me in an odd position, since I write and speak about ministering with people in their 20s and 30s.
Barbara Brown Taylor's concise, pithy and challenging prose is evidence that she is practicing what she preaches: that Christian pastors take more care with the words they use and treat language with economy, courtesy and reverence.
After a couple of years of sweating over each syllable, I suddenly needed the words. I hungered to write them. On vacations, my family urged me to take a break and I
became cranky. What happened? How did the words begin to grow like wildflowers
that I no longer had to coddle?
The paradox of being a writer is that you are more likely to get outcomes when you let go of getting outcomes: it frees you from the ego's grip. There is a parallel here to the faith journey: seek your life and you will lose it, lose your life and you will find it.
I think that writing is therapeutic. I agree with the psychologist who said that creativity is the successful resolution of internal conflict. But when it comes to autobiography, I myself don’t want the beasts roaring around. It’s not that I’m suppressing them. I know who and what they are. But I think there’s something a bit self-indulgent in feeling that we can say absolutely everything. I think there are things that have happened in our lives that we have to accept and come to terms with, but I don’t think that we necessarily have to write about them.
Forty years ago this month, I took a job as a student pastor in a small nondenominational church in a blue-collar community south of Chicago. I was a middler at the University of Chicago Divinity School–Chicago Theological Seminary, married with an infant daughter, and broke. The church offered $50 a week and a house with three bedrooms, bath and a real back yard.
The child is sitting up in bed, propped against pillows. She is six years old. Her homebound teacher, Mrs. Williams, is due any minute. She is fond of Mrs. Williams—a white-haired lady with a pleasant quavery voice.