Spiritual Formation

The Big Reveal

In my next post I will return to the subject at hand…revealing more about this particular journey of healing that God has taken me on. But here I want to take a step back—for my own benefit as much as anything—and try to explain the point of this exercise. Why I feel the need to write my way through. And why I am choosing to do it in a rather public way.

On the night that I posted my first blog entry, I had a dream. I was a competitor in a new water sport. (Probably because our friend Marcus had recently done THIS .)

In my dream, I floated in the middle of a wide river with several other athletes. Treading water. Nerves building. Dozens of people—including an austere panel of judges—were watching from bleachers on the beach.

I watched, too, as a helicopter flew toward us, then dropped a line into the water. One by one my opponents took their turns. Grabbing the line, soaring into the air, spinning and flipping in graceful loops as the helicopter did its own wild dance in the sky.

At just the right time, each athlete released his or her grip on the rope and dove head first through a tiny floating target. The audience erupted with cheers and applause. And the judges held up large numbers, revealing the scores.

Then my turn came. I seized the line and felt my body being torn from the safety of the water. Up I went, hanging on for dear life. There were no graceful turns. No spinning or flipping. Just a white-knuckled ride through the air.

Finally, the pilot circled over the target and yelled at me, “Let go and fall!” But I couldn’t do it. Or wouldn’t.

He circled, and I clung. Until finally he got frustrated and changed our course. Away we flew, down the river…and straight for a bridge. The huge iron structure loomed. The pilot yelled one last time. “Let go! Let go!”

And then, of course, moments before impact—I woke up.

As you can guess, anxiety dreams are not new to me. Though this aerial, aquatic version was an interesting variation on a theme.

I suppose it’s apropos. Writing can certainly feel like that. Especially sharing our writing with other people. Especially our more personal writing, where we reveal a bit of ourselves. It can feel like a wild ride. A clumsy dance. A strange new performance for which we are unprepared. We feel vulnerable, inadequate, exposed. After one intense writing workshop in graduate school, a classmate of mine described the process as “running naked through a hail storm.” And I concur.

So, then, why do THIS? Why write? And why share it with you?

Certainly, in part, I write to perform. To say, “Look what I can do.” And I am hungry for approval.

We all long for praise when we’ve done something particularly hard. Something particularly new or particularly well.

The climax of every home decorating television show is the Big Reveal. That moment when the designer brings the homeowners back into their space—a room that has been gutted, taken back to the studs, and rebuilt into something lovely. And the jaws drop. And the tears flow. And the homeowners jump up and down and hug the designer and cry, “It’s amazing! I can’t believe it! It doesn’t even look like the same house! How did you do THIS?”

Repeatedly I have tried to create those moments for myself. Quite literally. I have banished the Love Of My Life to the basement while I painted stripes in Daryl’s room or plastered the playroom walls with joint compound or wallpapered the dining room ceiling (my worst idea). And then when the project was completed and the room was looking just right, I have retrieved the LOML and revealed to him what I’ve done.

I don’t know why I still hope for tears of joy and elated hugs and just a bit of jumping. Peter is amazingly supportive in innumerable ways. But he is British and his version of gushing is to nod and simply say, “Not much wrong with that.” And the moment inevitably falls flat.

During my senior year of high school, my English teacher, Mrs. Underbakke, challenged our class to enter the Young Writers competition for Guideposts magazine. The first place prize was a $6000 scholarship and a new typewriter. I decided to enter, and in that case I think I wrote to win.

After days of wracking my brain for a topic, I decided—nervously—to write about my parents. During junior high and high school, I tried as best I could to hide my parents from the world. So this felt like a pretty Big Reveal.

With Mrs. Underbakke’s help, I wrote a simple story. About going to a school event with my parents, asking them to drop me at the door, avoiding them the entire night, and meeting them in the car at evening’s end. But the next day—as the story goes—several of my teachers took me aside and told me how remarkable they thought my parents were. And I realized they were right.

Reluctantly, I showed the essay to my parents before I sent it in. My dad nodded and said nothing. My mom cried and said, “I thought having disabled parents was hard for you. Why haven’t you said anything before this?”

The essay won second place. It was published in Guideposts magazine, the editor visited my school, the local newspaper ran an article, and a radio station invited me for an interview. I had my fifteen minutes of “fame.” I got my scholarship and a typewriter.

But then the Baptist church connected to my school expressed their disapproval of Guideposts magazine. My parents and I didn’t talk any more about their disability or how I felt. My fancy typewriter became obsolete in no time. And the moment fell flat.

Certainly, I also write to be known. To say, “Look who I am.” And I am hungry for connection.

C.S. Lewis is credited with saying, “We read to know we’re not alone.” I think we often write for the same reason.

Some time ago, I spent about three years in a dark hole, battling with depression and with God. The LOML and I were struggling with infertility. I had no effective support system. None of my friends could relate. My church didn’t know what to do with my erratic behavior. My faith was on a knife edge. I still believed there was a God. But I sure didn’t like Him very much.

In the midst of that season, I took a writing class. And I found some relief in pouring the pain and confusion out on paper.

A few months after the class ended, our teacher invited a number of writers to a gathering at his home. It was a time for wine and cheese and sharing our most recent work. I went with a couple of other writer friends. But I knew no one else in the room.

One by one each writer took a turn, sharing a lovely poem or funny story. And after each reading, our host and the other writers would offer a few encouraging words to the author.

Then my turn came. I was second-guessing my decision to read even as I started. Mine wasn’t a lovely poem or funny story. My face burned hot. My hands shook. But I dove in anyhow—with a sad, raw story about our infertility and a failed adoption and the absence of God. And when I finished, the room was silent. For what seemed like a very long time. Until my teacher—the poor man—finally spoke up and simply said, “Next?” And yes, that moment fell flat.

It was a Big Reveal; that’s for sure. Too big, in fact. It was as if the homeowners had come home in the midst of demolition. To a terrible scene of corroded pipes and old wiring and black mold all exposed. They were in shock. Had no idea what to say or do.

It was the wrong venue in which to read that piece. But I still think it was the right idea.

True and lasting Healing can only come through Revealing. Not a lovely finished project, but the mess along the way.

Those of us who call ourselves Christians are often the worst at this, I’m afraid. We live by the simple question, “What would Jesus do?” As if “doing” is the most important thing. And we think we know the answer to that question. As if He were in any way predictable. To improve our lives, we add new behaviors, new disciplines, new relationships, new hobbies, new toys, when what we really need is a completely renovated mind and a restored heart. We hang pictures, paint stripes, wallpaper ceilings, when the walls themselves need to come down.

And so, I think, many of us need a Big Reveal.

It begins by examining ourselves, doesn’t it? We often aren’t aware of our own termite problem. We walk by our own cracked foundation day after day and become blind to it. We don’t see how our past is affecting our present. How the people we love the most trigger us the most. How we prioritize comfort above growth and miss out on the life we were created for.

We also need to reveal ourselves to one another. Our hurts and our hopes, our fears and our failures. We need to roll up our sleeves and help one another through the hard work of reconstruction. That is my prayer for this space. That it might be a source of support and connection to even just one who is on this road.

Most importantly, though, we need to reveal ourselves to God. Get on our face before Him and welcome Him to shine His light into the darkest corners. And we need to keep our eyes wide open as He reveals more of Himself to us.

In an effort to do this, I am living in the book of Mark these days. Taking my time. Really seeing Him. Watching as He revealed himself to the blind, to the broken, and to a bedraggled band of disciples who repeatedly didn’t get Him. I love them.

For a long, long time, I didn’t get Him either. In so many ways, I know I still don’t. But what I do get is that over the past several years, He has stripped me (and the LOML) down to the studs. Gutted us. And He is slowly building us back. So I write out of gratitude and awe. And I write to say, “Look what Jesus did! He did THIS.”

3 thoughts on “The Big Reveal

  1. Beautiful!!! I thought of you so many times feeling bad for being one of those insensitive and childish jerks in your path so many years ago. I’m truly sorry. Wish I knew then what I know now. I would have been a better friend.

    1. Thanks, Lucie. It was an intense time for all of us, I think. 🙂 If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have walked through it differently too. Really good to hear from you. And thanks so much for reading. I value your comments!

  2. I love this one so much! So many lovely precious gems in this chapter. Love your heart and your vulnerability so much.

    I love your description of the “big reveal” and “Not much wrong with that.” 😉 And then I feel the weighty silence you describe after sharing in the writer’s group. So hard.

    In light of what I heard this weekend and then reading this, I’m so encouraged. I want to remember I won’t see my “stuff” sometimes, and I just might be tempted to redecorate when it’s really a serious need for reconstruction. Good things to chew on in this one.

    Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *