It’s happened again.
The semester has gotten the better of me, moving at a pace I can barely maintain, hardly a moment to pause, or ponder, or write.
No matter how strong the intentions I begin the year with — intentions of early morning rising and daily writing — they always seem to dissipate like so much summer dreaming. And thus it is that my calendar declares October nearly over and the semester halfway through, and yet my last blog post was in August. Cultural Field Studies came and went without comment, as did Spiritual Emphasis Week, and a September camping trip to the highlands of the Aberdares.
I am very good at preaching a discipline of writing. And very poor at practicing it.
And I know that this is my life. That if I cannot discover a way to incorporate the writing I long to do into my days, and nights, as they are, then I never will. The ideal working environment — the hours free to ponder words at my own pace — will never happen upon me. And though I certainly may return to school one day, to pursue my own studies, I will not discover writing waiting for me there, like some long-suffering and ever-patient friend.
There are muscles in the brain — in one’s writing fingers — the same way there are muscles in an athlete’s arms and legs. Fail to use them, and they will atrophy. Unnurtured, discipline goes the way of all good things: it dissipates, and fades, and turns to so much useless gelatin. So much unhelpful weight.
Which is why I am returning to NaNoWriMo this November — not to purge some burning story from within me, but simply to remind myself that writing is a choice, a discipline, and one that I am capable of making.
And why I am writing today. Because one must begin somewhere. Must choose to pick up the pieces (for the thousandth time) and start again. There is tenacity in continuing on when one has momentum behind one. Tenacity in choosing not to stop, not to slow, not to quit. But there is also a kind of tenacity — a grittier kind, perhaps — in choosing to start again when one has slowed, stopped, failed. Choosing to stoop to pick up the balls when one has dropped them; choosing to put them back up in the air, fairly certain one will drop them again.
For better or for worse that’s my life these days.
And I am trying to learn to recognize this process, this continually growing awareness of my own weakness, as an opportunity rather than a failure. An opportunity to remember that I am not God. That I was never meant to be God. Which is also a reminder to fix my eyes on the one who is God. The one who has the strength I do not. The one who does not slumber or sleep. The one who watches over my bedside. The one who can lift me up on wings like eagles. What does the Lord require of me, a frail and failing mortal? To seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in the shadow of the Almighty. All of these tasks require me to take my eyes off myself — to release my desire for perfection — and to care about bigger things. More important things.
I am fascinated by the Old Testament story of Moses. The prince who tried to save his people, and failed. And who, crushed by that failure, disappeared into the wilderness until his very identity had been all but purged from him. When God spoke to Moses, at last, out of a burning bush, utterly gone was the cocky prince, ready to make decisions about what was right and wrong. Ready to be the arbiter of justice and the working arm of God. And in his place, a man humble in his own weakness, empty of his own greatness. Like Gideon’s three hundred, here at last was a smallness God could use.
I think God is busy making me smaller, so God can be greater. And I am trying to embrace the lesson. To lean back into the foundation that is not, and never has been,
my own strength. The water I draw from the well of my own identity, discipline, courage, faith, will always, ultimately, run dry. Which is why I need to draw on a different source — why I need to return, daily, to the water of life, the water capable of turning me into a vessel cracked, but overflowing.
In the words of Rumi:
Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow
a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come.
If this is not the message of grace, I don’t know what is.