What is the story that you keep telling?
My nonfiction creative writing professor asked this question to our class a few weeks ago. Immediately my mind was transported to the entries of free writes that we had been doing all semester. No matter the prompt or the minutes allotted to let thoughts become words on a page, I always found myself writing about love, about the same boy, one whose charisma enticed me from the day I met him.
I’m a simple gal.
I love a good jam. Love to sing and dance to my favorite songs. A few months ago, I made a playlist called bonfire boy: the man of my dreams LOL. I was in deep distress (not really). I was in a phase of life in which I literally had dreamt about him several times over the course of a month or two. Since I write down my dreams, I’m pretty aware of when patterns appear (like which celebrities I’ve met in my dreams–shout out to my queen Hayley Williams or how many times I’ve dreamt about my wedding–twice). Seeing this person over and over again felt like a weird reminder of rehashing this story in my head about what was meant to be, at least eventually (or so I thought).
On April 30, 2022, I changed the name of the playlist from bonfire boy: the man of my dreams to what happens when you choose love but it doesn’t choose you?
And if you’re thinking, man, that’s a tad dramatic, you’d be right.
Related Post: Modern Love, V-Day & waiting for my turn
Recently, I’ve been looking back at old journal entries. After hearing a talk on the Parable of the Banquet, this parable where a man throws a banquet and invites all sorts of people in, it was vaguely coincidental when I read entries after reflecting on that same parable. A line from an entry on January 30, 2019 (my first year self): IV was about the invitation of God – The Parable of the Banquet. All I have to do is show up. But what do I do when it feels like I’m the only one at the table?
Faith has spent a long time feeling like that. Like somehow I’m the only one at the table. I’m supposed to be feasting on this lavish spread of food, but all I can think about is who is missing at the other end of the table.
Christian Wiman has incredible thoughts on faith in his book My Bright Abyss. “If God is a salve applied to unbearable psychic wounds, or a dream figure conjured out of memory and mortal terror, or an escape from a life that has become too appalling or too banal to bear, then I have to admit: it is not working for me.” What a word! Because same! This line on grace kills me (not literally though): “For if grace woke me to God’s presence in the world and in my heart, it also woke me to his absence.”
I had a dream a few days before I was rejected, and I wrote it down as I awoke. In my dream, I said to myself “let your heart break a little, kid.” As if to prepare myself for what was to come. An imperfect way of giving myself a little courage in a world where I so desperately want to hide.
Though I immediately connected the thing I said to myself to this boy, I wonder now if there is a fainter line connecting it to me and God.
In the way that this boy refused to sit at the table and feast with me, I so often feel that God is at another table, too busy delighting in the company of someone else to sit with me. I say regularly that God has a sense of humor and it isn’t mine. That faith is some form of cognitive dissonance, understanding that there is a greater reality than what we see.
But sometimes I sit at a table and wait for God as if I’ve arrived late to the banquet and the master has already left for the evening and headed to bed.
Related Post: When Love is Worth Keeping Around | quote series
In the rejection I faced with this boy, I’ve been invited to let go, to release the feelings I’ve had for him and given them space to breathe. I’ll look at him sometimes, though, often across a room, and I’m just be reminded that I have to let some ideas die. That the dreams I had are not the kind that will materialize into reality. Rather, they are dust and as that dust falls around me, I am bathed in the ashes of what will someday be the setup for a different story. One I didn’t ask for and yet one that is fully mine to enter into.
A question to be pondered is why I keep showing up to the table, when so often I feel alone there.
This answer doesn’t come easy. It doesn’t make sense. It isn’t effortlessly understood. And I ask myself the same question time and time again. When it feels like every time you enter the room, God leaves, you have to wonder why you even bother at all. Why not let this dream die too?
Weirdly enough, this boy and my God have taught me lessons in learning when to hold on and when to let go.
Related Post: 12 thoughts: from pain to abundance
The dreams I had of that boy are beautiful but there is joy in letting go, for the reality of what’s to come is greater than the dream of what I wanted. It takes two to tango, and I want someone who wants to tango with me. Even if it’s just to laugh at how bad we are at dancing. Or rejoice that we’re dancing at all.
Though God’s absence feels like cruelty, there are moments where His presence is ineffable. It’s undeniable. And when He sits down with me, even for a brief moment, it is worth every single time I’ve shown up to an empty seat.
I am changed because He changed me, and the dreams He has for me are greater than any reality I can see.
Wiman writes “Sometimes God calls a person to unbelief in order that faith may take new forms.” I am losing my old faith—a faith that made sense to me, a faith that had answers and explanations. I am finding something new—mystery, longing, a greater ability to take steps without needing to know where exactly they are leading. I am trusting that in holding onto God, I can let go of explanations that wrap everything perfectly. I am holding onto Him and holding everything else loosely.
P.S. here’s some things my classmates are taking with them from our nonfiction creative writing class together.