FTE Day 3: Writing as Vocation
Today I had the opportunity to engage in a profound and deeply challenging workshop called “Writing as a Faithful Witness to the Community.” The workshop was lead by Enuma Okoro, herself a published author, cultural critic, and engager of the arts (Okoro also co-wrote Common Prayer: a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, with Shaine Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove). We spent two hours discussing writing as a vocation and dissecting how writing serves as a witness to the community of faith. We talked about telling and listening to different stories, and we even got to do a bit of our own writing, which I’d like to share with you now (and in the future).
The exercise was simple enough. We had five minutes to write a piece that began with the simple prompt “My place is…” Once we completed that composition, we had another five minutes to write “The Kingdom of God is…” Finally, we were given five more minutes to re-reflect on the concept of “my place” in light of that which we had written about the Kingdom. Here, with just a little bit of editing and the addition of more natural conclusions, are my pieces. Enjoy!
My place is… in the hinter-lands and the in-between places and gaps and the borders. My place is straddling the divine and holding the sides of the universe in tension. My place is in the Academy and my place is in the Church. My place is doubting and trusting, somewhere in the chasm between a faithful disciple and a weary cynic. I revel in the tension of the in-between and the not-yet-ready, finding resonant harmony in the dissonant chords, aching for strains of the divine produced by the clashing of diametrically opposed things. My place is me, and I both reflect and shape it, both find and build it. And God is there, in-between.
The Kingdom of God is… my place. After all, the Kingdom is an uncomfortable tension: here and there, already and not-yet, incarnate and eschatological. It is yeast and lost pearls and mustard seeds and fields sown with wheat. It is so small, and yet so all consuming. It is ruled by a king who wins by losing, and populated by a people who engaged the down in order to go up. The Kingdom is a gap, a place that derives identity from both sides, incorporates them both, and yet is neither. The Kingdom is like a virus, so small that you cannot see it at first, but when it starts to spread, the whole world begins paying attention. The Kingdom is a revolution in our ordinary, a radical experiment in the middle of our every day. It is a new community, one that thrives on the in-between people of our lives.
My place is… in the Kingdom of God as a faithful cynic, a tender critic, a compassionate gadfly. My place is holding together not only my own tensions, but the tensions of God’s Kingdom. My place is in the already straining for the not-yet. I stand in the here and ache for a very real there. I dwell in the realized and hope for the eschatological. My place is to win by losing and conquer by dying, to love those who hate me and to spur those who love me to be better than they are comfortable being. My place is God’s place, the awkward in-between spaces, spaces that often function where there is no black or white, where even grays come in mottled shades and tones. This is my place, among this peculiar people and with this peculiar God.
If this all seems a bit contrived, I promise you that it all came out organically in that writing moment. It just so happened that I was able to string the three prompts together with a clearer sense of vision and purpose than perhaps I had imagined at the beginning.
But what about you? Where is your place? Do you have one? What is the Kingdom for you? How does that idea re-invigorate your understanding of your place?