Sunday, September 22, 2019

rewriting Sundays.

I can’t stand editing. There’s a whole part of writing dedicated to how I didn’t get it right the first time. Just the worst. I don’t think I’m unique in that dislike among writers, but it’s an unfortunate sentiment when editing is so crucial to good writing.

The biggest lesson I had to learn when I started a Master’s in Creative Writing, was that my first drafts wouldn’t be the finished product. It was defeating to me that I couldn’t say well what I wanted on the first go and, spoiler alert: no good writer ever has. Anne Lamott’s encouragement about subpar first attempts has set me free from the paralyzing need to get it right on the first cut.

I know my master's grew me as a writer (you'd hope, right?), but even more so as a person.
How do I embrace/reject/apply feedback? How do I adjust what I had in mind originally for the sake of creating a better story? How do I let go that the first draft will be the final one?

Editing the story is a struggle. Rewriting is uncomfortable, crucial work for a story to unfold with greater clarity in theme and strength in character. Editing is holy sanctification.

Change has been abundant in my life lately, but especially for my Sundays.

This summer was the first time I went to church as an adult without a role. Since high school, I’ve been leading, teaching, singing, directing something on Sundays.

When I left what I thought would be my career-long Call just over five years ago, there was a contrast in size and setting of worship, but I didn’t go longer than a couple weeks before I jumped in at the WHEREhouse Church. I didn’t have time to miss leading. (I probably also didn’t have time rest and heal, but that’s another blog post..or 10).

In May, the WHEREhouse, our sweet family church, closed.
My summer was consumed with a move, research and thesis work, and a youth gathering.
Just as I was looking forward to post-thesis free time to spend with them, some of my best friends took a new Call in Texas.

As the new school year kicked back in, it's hit me that I’ve not taken time in the running to jump stop and get my footing amidst the dizzying change. To hold up what was and what is like the "find what's different" pictures. The "then and now" of Sundays seem like starkly different pictures.

When I left my last Call, I no longer had to wake up at ungodly hours to be at church. For weeks, I woke up startled I overslept. The WHEREhouse met in the afternoon, so I don’t have that problem. ;-) But the rhythm I’ve known is broken. It’s different. It will never be that community in that place at that time again. It's good to just name and know that no church, no Sunday, will ever be that.

The same is true for evolving friend group(s) over the past few years where I've got to cheer several to new cities, jobs, and marriages, while experiencing really painful goodbyes of sweet seasons I knew were over and never coming back.

When the WHEREhouse closed, two dear friends gave me unsolicited encouragement that the next role I needed to serve in the church was “backrow pew sitter.” I am grateful for friends who boldly love me like that; wisely seeing what I need in disorientating change and giving me permission to stop to get my bearings. It’s foreign and risky to not have a role when that’s been the only identity I’ve known for almost two decades.

While I acknowledge there is a list of losses to grieve on this Sunday—and you should know that I haven’t made it through many Sunday services since May without tears...these edits are painful and overwhelming at times—I find myself asking the question that has drawn me through a myriad of relational and vocational changes:

God, what are you making room for?

And then I plead with Him to help me not miss it, to miss hope, as I loathe this season of editing and new changes in the story line I became accustomed to.

A pastor friend stopped by my office a few weeks ago to ask how I was doing, as he dropped his shoulders in commiseration of our wonderful friends moving out of state. I thanked him for thinking of me.

“Ya know,” I said, “the Lord and I have had a lot of chats lately about how it seems like everything is changing. But the more I’ve prayed and thought about it, I think this is just the way life is now. Just lots of changes and we have to ask for help in coping with it.”

He nodded and chuckled in understanding. It’s probably true.
Perpetual change. Recurring loss. Endless editing.

I smile thinking of our theme of the year at Concordia that just so happens to be, “In Christ, A New Creation,” from 2 Corinthians 5:17 which says, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

What a gift to have this reminder all year long – a reflection of Isaiah 43:19: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

I can struggle at this pivot, thinking the old way was just fine, thank-you-very-much, and I had found something that resembled control in that old order that I feel like I've lost.
It’s easy for me to cling to familiar stagnation or even dysfunction over the unknown and potentially painful new growth, health, and opportunity.

So on a day like today, instead of wishing for what isn’t, I ask God to help me wonder instead.

I wonder what God has in mind for what’s ahead--trusting His editing is a good and kind idea--and giving thanks for what I see Him doing now.
I see His provision in the present and it helps me trust that He hasn’t forgotten me.
Like this new home I was hesitant to consider (having a roommate in my 30s was not in the first draft, but a holy edit, no doubt).
Like the friend who invited me to an understated church that I probably wouldn’t have attended otherwise which has become an unexpected safe haven for pew-sitting, to simply rest in receiving communion and great teaching.

After the way-earlier-than-I-would-choose worship service today, my friend asked, “so what are you going to do with the rest of your Sunday?”
I shrugged smiling. “I don’t know! Maybe read a book…for fun?”

This Sunday of no obligation has had room for laundry and football and baseball and reading and now even some space for writing.

God has made room. Jesus is the best there is at holy, redemptive, editing. Though letting go and being open to edits can be painful, He is writing and rewriting more and more glimpses of Eden into our stories with every draft. With every reading of His Word. Every taste of the bread and wine. Every word confessed and absolved. He is editing Eden into our stories.

God has made room. He’s doing something new and it’s unnerving to not know how to fill the space. Or, better yet, to be content in resting and working faithfully right where I am, while waiting to see what He wants to add as I seek His Kingdom.

Editing can be grueling. Slow. Disorienting. Painful. Ever battling the temptation to just give up.
But in the edits, I am slowly learning acceptance, contentment, and even gratitude--singing to myself "Oh, Thou who changest not abide with me"--as He is rewriting Sundays.