I know many of our readers have faced this dilemma: In the writing world, no one understands my faith. In fact, they often look down on people like me. At church, no one understands my art. In fact, they often look down on people like me.
Now, I am blessed to attend a church very supportive of my poetry career, a fellowship that buys my books and packs out local coffee houses at my readings. Also, other writers usually at least tolerate my faith. But not every artist is fortunate enough to feel accepted by both sides. And sometimes we need an experience much deeper than mere acceptance, more enthusiastic than a polite smile and nod.
Enter the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College. For four glorious days in Grand Rapids, I could be myself--my true messy, vulnerable, Jesus-obsessed, word-obsessed, praying self. Upon arrival, I embraced friends I had seen in person just once or twice or, in many cases, only on Facebook. We spoke effortlessly about poetry, church, parenting. We ambushed restuarants, sharing meals like extended families. We shared testimonies, confessed our darkest, ugliest writing jealousies and fears. (Okay, that was mostly me.) I even munched pretzels and hummus loudly at the Relief table while pitching the journal to potential subscribers, and Brad Fruhauff was totally cool with it.
Sure, maybe we're just a bunch of nice people with exceptional interpersonal skills. But the weekend felt different than that. We had a spirit connection: a connection in Christ and a connection through our creative passions. As Dave Harrity, director of the Antler writing and teaching community wrote in a post-conference email, "Isn't it wild what the incarnation has done to our relationships? Instant friends with like-minded people."
Like-minded does not always mean like-aged, like-gendered, like-moneyed, like-denominationed, like-genred. But those characteristics slip to the margins when God takes the center. After the festival, Marci Johnson, poetry editor at WordFarm, posted this passage from Kathleen Norris's Amazing Grace wherein Norris describes the worshipping body. I believe it describes how many of us writers felt this weekend:
I like to think that it resembles Christ's ragged band of disciples in this manner, a diverse group with remarkable variance in personalities and attitudes toward Jesus. They were by no mean considered respectable by the religious establishment of their day, and they demonstrated many doubts and questions about this Jesus who has come into their lives.
We writers, ragged clothing and all, may not always earn the highest respect for our earning power and use of time. And yes, we have plenty of questions and doubts. But whatever we're doing, we're doing with this incarnation in our lives. And we're doing it together.
is guest poetry editor for Relief
6.1. Her book A Thousand Vessels
is out now from WordFarm Press.