Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Loving a Suicidal Writer

*I wrote this poem after reading an article about James Baldwin and his struggle with suicidal ideation*

If I ask you to martyr me within your pages,
blank and crisp, like unvarnished potential,
don’t let your memory of me fade away
like forgotten, abandoned childhood dreams.
Don’t listen to my mournful woes.
Write me beautiful and stellar,
glamorous and headstrong.
Paint me with words like “indestructible”
“iridescent” and “wonderful friend.”
If I should attempt to fall prey to my own dirty hand,
don’t let pain and trauma tell the story,
write me a new ending, one where I am the victor;
one where I live triumphant
with my long-forgotten happiness.
Hold my hand in the darkness and guide me
to yet another light. There will always come another light, won’t there?

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

If You Were a REAL Christian, You Wouldn’t Doubt (Part 2): Is There a Reason to Doubt God, Ever?

On a Facebook thread I’m currently following concerning the need for good apologetics, as nonexistent apologetics and intellectual doubts are contributing to many leaving the Christian faith, someone made this comment:

No one leaves the faith for intellectual reasons. Those who left were never of us 1 John 2:19.

I am upset, but more so deeply heartbroken by this person’s statement, as it demonstrates both his ignorance and a lack of grace.

Review of the Past Year

I feel like I can speak on these things with some authority, as I’ve been there before.

This time last year, I had renounced the Christian faith and identified as a deconvert who attended church only because of familial obligations and fear of repercussions. I had both emotional and intellectual reasons for leaving the faith. I spoke honestly with more Christians during that time than I had my entire life as a believer.

I had people respond to my stance as the gentleman above did, including one brute who told me that because of my doubt, I never knew God and needed to repent. I had good Christian friends who, once they learned of my disbelief, decided they’d rather throw away our friendship than be associated with an unbeliever. Yet, I had other Christian friends who patiently, and with much grace, loved me right where I was and answered any and every question I could think of. (Shout out to Pastor Doug for his patience, wit, and kindness! And to Paul C, Michael P, and Timothy M also, for answering both my intellectual and emotional doubts!) They loved me back to the Gospel and I am grateful for their presence in my life.

Addressing the Naysayers

Let me get this out of the way first: I am not encouraging senseless doubt of God simply for the sake of doubting. There is a difference between that kind of doubt and doubting with a purpose.

Contrary to popular belief, there are intellectual reasons for doubting the nature, character, and motive of God (e.g. The Problem of Evil). Granted, none of those reasons are ultimately good or sustainable for continued disbelief in and of God, but they do exist.

1 Peter 3:15 instructs us to “honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (HCSB).” Note that the Scripture doesn’t specify “reason.” Not a “only if I think this is a legitimate, valid concern” reason or a “this has to line up with my interpretation and view of Scripture before I answer” reason. No, you and I are to give a defense if asked for any reason for our hope in Christ.

A Final Word of Advice

Do not push away or give easy, Christianese pet answers to the kid in your church wondering why he should believe the Bible as opposed to the Qur’an or Book or Mormon. Do not scoff at the college sophomore and tell her she just “needs to have more faith” that God will “work everything out for her good” when she wonders where God is after life throat-punches her repeatedly. Give them a reason for your hope without invalidating their questions and experiences, without being an intellectual snob, and do so in and with the love of Christ.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Nobody Ever Thanks the Editor When the Author and Book Get Praised

“Oh my gosh, your book is so amazing; I couldn’t put it down! The story, your characters, and that plot twist?! Did not see that coming! You’re such an amazing writer…”

Does any of this sound familiar? Or, for those of you who are still hoarding your finished-and-unpublished manuscripts in a folder on your desktop labeled “NEXT GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL,” is this what you wish will one day happen?

Slow down. There is a process. Before you start mass-marketing your book, think of your poor editor. You know, the one slaving over your manuscript, making your Word document look like more murder scene than polished perfection from all the red highlights and inserted comments in Track Changes from your awkward phrasing, tense switches in the middle of paragraphs, and with blotched splatters of comma splices running wild? Doesn’t she deserve some credit, too?

How This Thought Came to Be

I know it sounds random, but it’ll make sense in a minute. A few hours ago, I was on Amazon searching for more books to buy (I don’t have a problem!) and I wondered if the book I had edited for a self-publishing author had received any reviews. I went onto the page to look and lo, and behold, there was one review. The review was the typical kind of review of a raving, satisfied reader. I smiled when I read it; that smile quickly evaporated when a thought came into my head: What about me? 

The Thankless Task of Editing

Nobody ever thanks the editor when the author and book get praised (except the author). Look, I get it. We, readers, read for entertainment mostly, and don’t read like writers unless we are apart of the crazy clan who think we can change the world with our words while being sleep deprived and functioning on coffee alone (not me though, coffee puts me to sleep, so tea is my preferred drink). Like a loyal stagehand working behind the scenes, ensuring “the play must go on,” only to be forgotten by the rush of applause meant only for actors’ ears, editing can be a thankless job.

Moreover, I am not without fault either. When leaving reviews on Amazon, I, too, become engrossed in characterization, plot holes (if any), and the love of language itself. I too often forget that, while the act of writing is a solo one, the act of publishing is a collaborative effort between the author, editor, book cover artist, and publisher. And having been on both sides of the table, I realize that editing is a hard task; it is stress-inducing and deadline-driven, but it is also worthwhile and necessary for creative art, be it written, drawn, or filmed, to exist. So, the next time you hire an editor to work on your craft, send him a thank you card or a small trinket to show your appreciation.

I want to hear from you: Do you agree or disagree that editors often go thankless? What would you do to show an editor he/she is valued and needed?

 

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

No, God Isn’t Going to Heal You on Demand Every Time You Ask

I know that may come as a shock to most Word by Faith communities and Pentecostals, but just stay with me a while.

I recently read a post in a Christian apologetics group on Facebook where someone posed this question: “I have recently heard several pastors in sermons say that believers who have any sort of sickness have “already been healed” by Jesus (referencing Isaiah 53:5 and 1 Peter 2:24/similar to all our sins have been paid for with his death and resurrection) and all anyone has to do is “receive the healing”. Salvation is already done, we just have to believe and receive. Same for sickness/healing? Is this a defendable assertion?”

Reality Check

This ideology is, in my opinion, a gross generalization of the Scripture, as the context surrounding Isaiah 53:5 was specifically referring to how the Messiah’s wounds and the subsequent blood shed was sufficient for the freedom from the bondage of sin and to redeem and reconcile us back to the Father without the need for a third-party.

In response to his question, I posted the following in reply: “As someone who was born with cerebral palsy and has been dragged to “deliverance/healing services” throughout her lifetime, no that assertion is not defendable in the slightest (especially since my kneecaps dislocated yesterday as I walked from my bedroom to the kitchen!) “Well, it’s not happening because you don’t have enough faith.” Those people sound like the disciples who asked Jesus if Bartimaeus’ blindness was a result of his own personal sin or the sin of his parents. I wanna scream at them, ‘If Jesus wanted to heal me this side of Heaven, He would, but He chooses not to, so chill!’ but I don’t cuz that’s rude and mean. Anyway, yea, that’s not a defendable statement at all.”

The Will of God

Since we were young, we have always been taught to “pray the will of God” and certainly, people being healed is God’s will, right? Not always. It’s shocking, I know. Sometimes, God’s answer is “no” for reasons that may be–and often are–unknown to us. I have had conversations with friends and others concerning whether or not I truly believed God could heal me of cerebral palsy. The unknown implication of these questions is that my “miraculous healing” has not occurred because I don’t believe enough. They mean well; my friends see my difficulties and limitations, while helping me when the need arises, but to assume that my supposed “lack of faith” is the sole reason for why I am still plagued by this congenial, neurological disorder is a bold and wrong claim to make. Perhaps part of the problem is because they are able-bodied people who, in their caring for me, want me physically whole and healthy (and there’s nothing wrong with that).

Nonetheless, I’ve had several conversations with God about this topic over the years and questioned why He wouldn’t heal me, especially when my symptoms were more prominent and noticeable in my younger years. For a long time, I felt different and not in a good way. I felt ostracized from my peers because I couldn’t do the same things they could; I felt like there was something wrong with me. It took me a while, but after sitting with God for a bit, I’ve learned a few things.

  1. God’s will sometimes puts you in an inconvenient situation and you gotta learn to roll with the punches.
  2. If God healed me of my cerebral palsy, I wouldn’t be the person He meant for me to be. I feel as though I would lose some vital characteristics unique to me like compassion.
  3. You can’t force God’s hand, even with prayer.
  4. God made you special and He loves you very much. So, learn to embrace all of who He’s created you to be regardless of whether healing takes place or not. (This last lesson I was reminded of today only because I was jamming out to Veggie Tales all day. Don’t judge me!)

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Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

The Night I Discovered the Bible isn’t THAT Important

I know I might accumulate a lot of hate for this post; or perhaps, no one will even notice my words on this page, but for those who choose to see this to the end, just stay with me. I promise this is going somewhere.

I Have a Secret to Share…

Lean in close… Here it is: God is bigger than the Bible. I know that may shock some of you who read your Bible every day and/or have read the sacred Script forwards and backwards multiple times (even Leviticus!), but sit with that for a minute.

Let me say it a little louder for those in the back who may have trouble hearing my soft-spoken voice:

GOD IS BIGGER THAN THE BIBLE!

How do I know such a heretical thing to be an absolute truth? Ask me. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

The Night Everything Changed (Getting Angry at God)

The night I discovered that God was bigger than a book, the Sacred Book, I was sitting on the floor of my childhood bedroom with my Bible (one of five) in one hand and my phone in the other. The person on the other line was my current pastor-friend who had been, at that time, trying to understand why I was hating God and doubting everything that was even remotely associated with Christianity. The conversation, to the best of my memory, was as follows:

“…So, you’re angry with God because of all the terrible things He’s allowed you to go through?”

“It’s not that simplistic…but, basically, yea… I kinda wanna rip my Bible apart.”

“Cuz you’re angry at God?”

“Yea. And I mean, it’s just a book, just like Shakespeare. They’re just words on pages…”

“Do it.”

“Are you crazy?!”

“Seriously, do it. You’ll feel better. I’ll stay on the phone with you. Get it all out.  Tell God you’re angry. Cuss Him out if you need to. He’s not gonna get bent out of shape. He’s a big guy; He can take it.”

“…if I get struck by lightning while doing this, I’m blaming you!”

“You’ll be fine.”

~

As the sound of his laughter faded from my ears, I stared down at my Bible wondering what would happen if my mother were to walk in at that moment. And then, I decided I didn’t care. I can’t remember where I started—I believe it was somewhere in Romans—but page by page I went, ripping the Scriptures to shreds with a pastor on the phone encouraging me to see this through to the end.

I periodically gave him updates like “Luke is halfway done” and “1 Timothy is ripped out,” thinking that he would, at some point, change his mind and tell me to stop. He never did. The only time I paused my tirade on the holy Script was when I hit the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 31:3b was highlighted in orange and when my eyes glanced over the words, I froze. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.”

For a split second, I considered the words of an ancient prophet, of a God to His wayward daughter, wanting to believe that those words were true, but I couldn’t. In my eyes, God had abandoned me and didn’t care what happened to me which, considering the circumstance I was currently in, seemed fair. I knew better than to expect that a “supposedly” loving God would have anything to do with me when I deliberately left Him with no intentions of coming back. The fact that I was tearing His words apart definitely didn’t help either. I continued shredding the ancient words until there were none left. I told my pastor-friend when I finished the annihilation. As I gathered the torn pages and put them in the trash, we talked more.

~

“How do you feel?”

“A little better.”

“See? I told you. And you didn’t believe me….” I swear I could hear his smile break wide open through the phone.

“You are, without a doubt, the weirdest pastor I have ever met.”

There’s a Method in the Madness

Now, before you stone me (put the pitch fork down!), hear me out: That drastic measure actually proved to be beneficial. Sounds crazy, right? I know; stay with me. Looking back, I now see that there was a method to his madness in urging me to release all that pent-up anger: It got my emotions out of the equation and forced me to reevaluate my reasons for leaving the faith (Hint: there weren’t many intellectual doubts that could hold a candle afterwards).

Additionally, it made me aware of the most important lesson I have learned as a follower of Christ: Christ/God is bigger than the Bible. How? Simple: After I threw away the torn pages of what once was my Bible, God did not stop being God.

Take note: if the god you’re worshipping can cease to be powerful at the first sign of a challenge (like a ruined holy Book), then you have a pretty weak god.

I wasn’t struck by lightning, the world continued to spin on its axis, and I still heard my mom laughing at the tv in the living room. Take note: if the god you’re worshipping can cease to be powerful at the first sign of a challenge (like a ruined holy Book), then you have a pretty weak god. But hey, don’t just take my word for it. There is Biblical proof of my seemingly bizarre statement.

Biblical Proof that God is Bigger than the Bible

The proof is within the mini library itself. In John 5:39-40, we find Jesus condemning the Pharisees for their religiosity. He, very bluntly, calls them out by saying, “You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

Breaking Down the Scriptural Proof

Let’s take a look at the first part of that Scripture. “You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them….” Though the Old Testament prophets wrote the greatest work of literature while inspired by the Holy Spirit, even Jesus knew that the Torah alone was not a sufficient savior by itself. Essentially, you can read the entirety of the Bible until you memorize every sentence and semicolon, but only God can save you. “…yet they testify about Me…” Jesus is the actual, literal breathing fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies—and there are over 300 of them! “And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

This part of the text did not truly hit me until I left Christianity, which is ironic (trust me, the irony is not lost on me at all!) because this verse, as stated in a previous blog about intellectual Christians and the grace of God, has been my theological fear for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been praised by teachers, parents, and random strangers for my intelligence and I guess, when I started letting myself ask questions about why and how things were, I kinda got carried away. I remember making connections between the Old and New Testaments when I was younger and how excited I felt when something that was previously challenging to understand just clicked. It’s not like I thought I didn’t need God—of course, I did! Didn’t everyone?—but I put Him in a box confined only by Scripture. It’s silly and sad to think about now, but that’s how I lived most of my Christian life before I deconverted. The last sentence of John 5:40 did not truly backhand me across the face until I was sitting in my room with torn Scripture everywhere. In essence, it wasn’t what I had done that made me realize that I was utterly wrong, but what He hadn’t done (kill me right then and there).

Parting Thoughts

Sometimes, drastic measures need to be taken to put you back on the right path. He’s not afraid of a challenge, or even your anger. He can take it. Just be sure you’re ready for the aftermath that will come. If you try to put God in a box, He will bust out of it like the powerhouse He is and leave you looking foolish for thinking you can contain Him. Again, let me reiterate this final point: Scripture alone cannot, and will never, be sufficient in and of itself to save, heal, or comfort you. Only Jesus can. If you try to go at this another way, it will not end well. Trust me.