You lay it all on the line, you write until you bleed. You throw every ounce of the aches of your heart onto the page.
Long words do not impress. Vain self image does not fool anyone. Writing that seeks only to serve your self is a window to your soul. But how often am I tricked into thinking that if only I can find the right formula of words everything will be okay? How often do I want to set everything straight with carefully measured lines, and compassion bleeding onto the page?
Words can make a difference. Words, arranged in a form to provoke emotion; words, designed to force the hairs on your arms stand on end; words, that convey far more than their simple meaning. Words, that drag the beating, screaming, reluctant, truth out of the dark and into the light.
When I write I want to write with integrity and I do not want to hold back. I’ve written about this before elsewhere – it’s the process of stripping away the layers that shield us from the affrays that bombard, but also hide our identity behind their strong defence. We get so good at protecting ourselves, I get so good at protecting myself I forget what it is I am trying to shield from the storm.
I lift my eyes and wonder what I have been fighting all along. I wonder what I have been fighting for. I wonder, what is left of the heart that cries.
Last week I first heard the term ‘vulnerability hangover’ – I can’t remember from whom, and then I encountered exactly what it meant. I posted some raw thoughts, after waiting most of the day agonising over whether to hit publish. But the next day it hit home. I had written that I didn’t feel like going to church, and yet I was due to walk through the doors in a few hours time. I had already decided that I would feel the eyes piercing into my soul as I sat or stood, as I lingered and listened, as I paid attention, or paid lip service to the norms.
The vulnerability that had fuelled my words would not leave me alone. I spent most of the day before heading to church in a daze, I wrestled with why I was going – was it simply to keep up appearances? The kind words of many, both in public and private, convinced me that I was right to say what I had said, but that did not make walking through the doors any easier. In the same way I want the words I write to accurately convey what I am feeling and doing, I likewise want my actions to match the words I write. I do not want to simply promote a facade of vulnerability that only adds another layer to my distorted self-image.
I had a vulnerability hangover. It took away any words I might have to share, I tried to talk to a few people but I was spent. I had no appetite to write any posts this week.
For most of this week I have had a simple refrain from an old hymn in my head. It provided tonic for my soul. I first encountered the words in the final lines of a book by Adrian Plass, ‘Jesus – Safe, tender, Extreme’, I didn’t remember the context until I pulled it off the shelf to check I’d not distorted the lines in my mind. He closes his book talking about a friend who has recently died:
“Do I have a 100 percent belief in her resurrection and eternal life? I have a 100 percent desire to have that much belief. I have a hope that burns inside me, It sometimes flickers. I have been promised that one day I shall go home to the Father’s house. I guard that promise, but occasionally I forget where I have put it. I have a love for Jesus that has survived all the obstacles and pitfalls that have threatened to distract me from him since I was sixteen years old. I have in my heart the words of a song that continues to comfort me today as it comforted me then:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace.
I think it’s going to be all right.”
I have nothing more to add. Except to say, the refrain isn’t all there is to this beautiful hymn.