We’re still in Nebraska and, although it finally stopped raining here there still isn’t much to talk about– Koolaid, TV dinners, steak, football, blah blah blah – so I am going to write about something that has been on my mind for awhile. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with Packing Light, but it keeps rising to the top of those mental lists I was talking about so I am trusting that it somehow belongs.
Last week a friend asked me if I was trying to write a ‘Christian’ book from this experience and I realized that I hadn’t really thought about it much. She noted that if I were to slant my writing a little—if I were to talk about faith with more generalities—more people could identify with my experience and I could draw a wider audience. I told her that I couldn’t do that because I didn’t think it would be honest, which wasn’t really fair because that wasn’t the whole truth.
The truth was that her advice made me worry a little. It made me worry about what it means to be a “Christian” author, made me nervous about being placed in that category. It made me think about who was reading (and not reading based on what I was writing (or not writing) and what that meant I was allowed (or not allowed) to say.
I know that Sharaya can relate. I have watched her worry each time she performs her song that uses the word “damn.” It’s almost like there is this invisible pressure that comes along with being an artist who also happens to be a Christian. It’s easy to worry that people will be confused if I am honest about who I really am.
The truth is that truth is not my strong suit. My name means, “Truthful One,” but it’s ironic. Ask my family, or just spend enough time around me and you’ll likely hear me tell a story like, “this one time I jumped off a hundred foot cliff!” And while I often like to remind people that I am a writer, and that exaggeration is a narrative technique, I have to admit that a failure to tell the truth is more often about fear than anything else.
I think that truth is scary because it exposes us—all the things about us that are ugly and irritating and boring. The truth about truth is that it is sometimes embarrassing, sometimes disturbing, sometimes annoying or complicated or doesn’t make sense. But I love the wisdom that came to me in an email this past week: Truth isn’t always the easiest choice, but it always leads to the best results.
I am tempted sometimes—in writing, in life—to stay silent because I worry that if you hear the truth, you will go away. Sometimes I am tempted to use words that are not true, or that kind of true, because I know that you will not be happy with the ones that are. But I am reminded, again (and again, and again) that being known as someone who I am not doesn’t feel any better than not being know at all. Truth is about freedom.
Truth is both the hardest and best thing that we can do.
So the truth is that I am not trying to write a Christian book. I don’t sit down at my computer screen each morning and think about how I can weave in a Bible verse. I don’t pose at the keyboard, write about an experience, and then try to find a way to fit God in it. I write what I know. I write who I am.
Anything else would be dishonest.