Writing is a Sacred tradition in many cultures. We revere the books that come from these cultures. It’s also a very sacrificial act, one that takes a lot of courage, honesty, and time. I’d like to talk about writing during Lent.
Traditionally, Lent gives some 46 days to prepare for Easter, a time of preparation for Christians for the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on the cross (and the subsequent cool resurrection part). The idea was that you were not just shocked, surprised, pleased, and quickly through Easter, but that you could think –over 46 days– about the impact this one act of self-sacrifice did for your faith. It’s mirrored in some ways by Advent.
But whereas Advent is about preparing for joy–a baby, a baby! Lent is about preparing for death and transition.
Christians often give up something for Lent–so that whenever they crave it, they will think of what Christ gave up for them. Chocolate and Life are not comparable; however, the idea is to be aware of the season through this sacrifice. Call it the best mindfulness exercise the Christians have come up with yet.
That said, whether you are Christian or not, we can take the Lenten Season to think about Faith, and perhaps, write about it. Or at least ask ourselves to write with more courage, more honesty, and more faith than we have in the past.
Writers are plagued with insecurity and negative thoughts. Let’s put those on the altar of Lent and say, hey, no more of these. We are afraid sometimes of writing our Truth and giving it to others. And we often have a lack of faith in our own abilities and ideas.
Lent leads us up to celebrating Life from Death. I don’t want to co-opt Jesus’s very big moment, but he too had a very big mission, and it got harder and harder to be honest, to be courageous and to follow through on what his mission was.
What I want to do is to ask writers to write for 46 days– science fiction, fantasy, memoir, essay, poetry–and write with more courage, more honesty and more faith than you ever have before. I also challenge you to write a little about faith.
It’s important for us as writers to believe in ourselves and our writing, to give up negative thoughts and insecurities, preparing our hearts to more honestly talk about Life. There is a lot of struggling that goes on in writing if we are to be honest–and struggling with being honest–and so, for 46 days, let the honesty flow. Be yourself. Be creative. Be courageous. Be honest. GIVE UP negative thoughts that question YOUR mission, and Create and GIVE something honest and courageous to the world.
Having been raised in churches all my life, having done the double, triple, renewing salvation genuflect that Baptist kids do over their lives, knowing the plan of salvation in scripture form, calling card form, bracelet form, code form— you’d think that I was duly saved. You don’t really have to do it so many times.
Until your life is at stake.
Coming out to myself really hit me hard. It threw my sense of what I could believe in the Bible. Waking up to the idea that I had been misinformed at such a deep level about who I was, and what I was, made me wonder if the Bible (or Christians) could get wrong how God felt about being gay, what else could they get wrong? It threw me, too, into a world where I felt pretty lost.
But then one day, I found Anne Lamott. Actually, she was given to me, and the man who gave her book to me said, “Many people who have lost their faith have found it again after reading this book.”
He was a pastor in Oyster Bay, Peter Casparian, 1988 Quatrofilio Alfa Romeo-driving liberal Episcopal pastor preaching in an historic church, Christ Church, the church of Theodore Roosevelt. Over croissants and jam outside of a French Bakery, I came out to him. Because I was shaking, because I cried, and because I didn’t know what I wanted to believe any more, he said I should find a copy of Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, that it would restore my faith, or at least calm my nerves. I was frightened of churches, a little scared of the Bible…as if it were now riddled with land mines. If I go to Romans, bam! If I head to Genesis, boom!
Traveling Mercies is Anne Lamott’s honest memoir of trying out church. It’s not written like anything you’d find in a Christian bookstore. It’s refreshing. It comes at faith from a non-churched point of view. God is surprising, he’s real, he’s around the corner; Anne is the kind of believer who questions God, gets upset with him, does things wrong! does things surprisingly well! She is fearless in her attempts to believe in God, and in a quirky group of believers. Thank God she didn’t go to a stuffy, we-have-all-the-answers church.
I’ve heard people come away loving this book–and I certainly did. It renewed my faith despite having had it trounced by well-meaning folk. She provided a way back to the parts of faith that I loved and remembered. Faith is not Religion, but Religion can be made of Faith. For her there are only two prayers, “Help me, help me, help me!” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I think that sums up most prayers well.
Anne Lamott allows herself to be so vulnerable, to be, as she puts it, “such a mess.”