Friday, February 19, 2016

blank pages and the spiritual discipline of writing

I wrote a letter the other day.  When I say that "I wrote a letter", I mean I actually wrote it ... with a pen and actual paper.  I'll have to admit that it was a unique experience.  It wasn't a post it or a memo, it was an actual letter with a beginning, middle, and ending ... on paper ... in ink ... with questionable penmanship.   It was void of all the usual trappings that I have become accustomed to.  There was no spell check, and I couldn't just backspace to get rid of my spelling shortcomings.  There was none of that annoying blue underline grammar check begging the question "are you sure you want to construct this phrase this way?".  I tend to ignore those anyway.
Possibly more of a challenge though was my entering in to this letter without a clear vision of where I was headed.  There wasn't even a blinking cursor to follow across the pages.  Actually, this lack of direction delayed its writing for several days.  All I had was a feeling of where I should head and ultimately it was only this feeling that moved me forward.  I had finally decided that I just needed to sit down, start writing, and follow wherever it led me.  In the end it led me to a completed letter, on paper, in ink, hand written, and a satisfaction that I had arrived where I was supposed to be.
It seems as if this process has become synonymous with the way my life has progressed for the past several years... actually for almost 27 years now.  From the very first time that God had my attention and put a blank sheet and a pen in my hand with a "feeling" that I should follow.  Let me be clear though, this is not what I would consider my preferred method of living.  I never wanted to live out the God and Abram conversation "go to the place that I will show you".  I happen to like maps.  For that matter I like to know where I am going to stop along the map and have a reservation waiting for me when I get there.
God created me as a nearly balanced left brain/right brain individual. In normal circumstances, balanced might be seen as a preferred state.  In this case, I would argue, balanced is not the best plan.  Balanced simply means that I am constantly at war with myself between thinking and feeling.  This means I have a feeling ... a "go to the place I will show you" kind of feeling and I immediately try planning how I'm going to get there.  That's a formula for frustration, exhaustion, and a little bit of crazy.  I want to feel sorry for those in my life who have been dragged along that journey to "the place I will show you" in the same way that I feel sorry for Abrams family.  They had to follow his feeling and hope that it wasn't simply a bit of a mental condition.  My family has had to follow back and forth, sometimes only on nothing more than a literal "feeling".  I want to feel sorry, yet on the other hand I can't argue with the results.  I can't imagine being in a different place or them being in different places.  I want to feel sorry for Abrams family, and yet look at how God's plan unfolded because Abram picked up the paper (or tablet or ???) and began to follow across the page until the story, or at least his part of it, was complete.
Our nature, I think, is to fight against the blank spaces and the unknown in our lives.  We want a plan, people of my profession sometimes claim that there is a formula for finding a pre-written page.  They sell books and fill seminars promising back stage access to the author and an opportunity to dictate our story ahead of time.  It's not true ... and believe me when I say that I want it to be true.  But then it wouldn't be called faith would it.  All you get is a blank page, a pen, and the opportunity to follow one word at a time.  Don't worry about the destination because if you just allow yourself to follow, you could never imagine it anyway.  Just write.

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