Posted by: pendrops | April 2, 2009

the word

shitty-word1

I’m not pious, I’ve got a foul mouth, I’m ill-tempered,
but in my best moments…I try to make the decisions for love.
Because love wins.

-Cathleen Falsani

As I looked at the six-letter word on its appointed page and thought about the hundreds of hot-off-the-press copies of my first published book gathered around me like a gaggle of unruly children, I sighed.

“Too late now,” I laughed, staring at the unsmudgable ink. Alone and feeling the weight of disapproving voices, I closed my book and left the apartment. I needed a walk.

On my stroll past budding bushes, I thought about the book I’d been working on for nearly two years. Mostly, I thought about the word and the handful of judgments about my choice of verbiage.

“Why did I put it in there?” I agonized and ruminated with each step, frustrated and flustered by the whole matter, angry that it had only taken a little criticism to make me cave. Self-doubt was stealing the happy author joy I had fantasized about since I was a little girl sitting at my Brother electric typewriter. My book was published, released into the world – what could possibly bum me out?

The word, that’s what.

No. Wait. Not the word, but my second guessing the word. Second guessing every word – not just the word. And wondering where I got off trying to be some kind of revolutionary, some kind of radical truth-speaker, an authentic voice in a mass of nicer, conciliatory writers.

I followed this line of thinking in a fearful, nauseating and otherwise self-flagellating way for the rest of my walk. And the better part of a week, for that matter.

But then I came upon a life-altering chapter of Sin Boldly, the 2008 book release from fabulous Chicago Sun Times religion writer Cathleen Falsani. And I remembered something. I remembered my heart. No, better than that…

I remembered my purpose. My passion. And the people I had in mind when I wrote my book. People who have questions, who are searching, who are recovering from addictions, who are getting it wrong and making a hairy mess of life, who are frayed and on the fringes, who are lonely, who are sinners and know it, who are full of glory and beauty and don’t know it.

And, to quote Cathleen:

They are the reason I wrote what I wrote. They are the reason I do what I do…my audience is not the big, bellicose voices of God’s professional bloviators. If they want to read over the shoulders of the marginalized, hurting, scared, ostracized, wounded rest of us, more power to them. But they’re not the point.

Nearly two decades ago, Brennan Manning said the very same thing in his priceless book, Ragamuffin Gospel.

This book is not for the super-spiritual. It is not for the muscular Christians…the academicians…noisy, feel-good folks…hooded mystics…Alleluia Christians…fearless and tearless…red-hot zealots…the complacent…the legalists. If anyone is still reading along, The Ragamuffin Gospel was written for the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out.

As I re-read Cathleen’s own tale of disapproving readers and remembered Brennan‘s words, I thought about the people who matter most – the people for whom I wrote As Is. And, among other monumental things, I realized that they couldn’t care less if I use the word.

Still, the fact remains that there are some who may be disturbed by the word as well as some other content that shows up in my book. There are some who think it’s poor taste, who think I won’t sell many books, who think I’ve made myself look bad. And maybe they’re right. I’m willing to plead guilty. I may look back and say the word was unnecessary, poorly placed, downright wrong. Hell, I may take it out in some future edition (but I doubt it).

After several walks, several sessions with Brennan and Cathleen, and several more conversations with God, I was finally able to answer my question. I finally knew why I put the word in my book. I put it there because, for better or worse, the word is a part of my daily lingo. The real me. Not the marketable me. Not the airbrushed glossy me. Not the Sunday-morning-best me. But the Wednesday-afternoon me, the stuck-in-traffic-and-feeling-hormonal me, the fired-up-and-ranting-about-stuff me.

In a book – and a life – with as-is-ness written all over it, that word (and a few others) are bound to show up. And if I can’t be that me along with the best me… If I can’t “speak what I feel, not what I ought to say” to quote Shakespeare’s Lear… If I can’t be honest about who I am as I try to live and love and write and connect with humanity… Then what’s the point of being an artist, being a communicator, being Krista?

But more than this word or that one, I realized what I had been hoping for all along: that love would win. Every time. Because if the sum total of my book isn’t ultimately love, then all the crisp, clean and Christian-y words I could craft are just clanging and jangling and adding to the noise.

And I think we’ve got enough noise.

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