I haven't written much about my journey towards faith in this space.
It infuses everything I write, yes, because I am stained by its touch and born again into its glory. But sharing the journey before and during and after? I've been pretty quiet.
Perhaps it is because that part of my story is, at once, innocent and convoluted and fiery and fickle and it just feels too messy to wrap words around. There is definitely fear of judgement present. And not just from those who might read it.
Perhaps it is because I struggle to see where I am on the spectrum and I don't know how to trust the spaces where colors bleed, one into the other.
Perhaps I am just tired of trying to hold it all together and I don't trust that anyone else really wants to help me carry the burden.
But maybe that will change now that I have read Amber Haines' book Wild in the Hollow.
This, here, is why:
"There will always be ways I'm learning to let God love me, but maybe I inherited more than desire for the knowledge of good and evil from our Eve. Maybe I inherited her memory, the echoes of the garden. There was the faint memory of the cadence of his walk in the cool of the evening. There was the settled stride I remembered. Oh yes, I remembered that he had seen my freshest skin. He had seen my naked heart. There was a memory in my spirit that he had called me beloved. His smiling on me what always his original intention...You see, Amber Haines' story feels like my story, in so many ways. The idyllic childhood wrapped in church culture, the rebellious adolescence, the rabid desire for significance and being known, the running to and falling away again and again and again.
I saw this potential for others also. I knew God was everywhere and knew there were glimpses of him in all people, because he showed me his kindness and his mercy in all creation. Even in the great sin and shame of other, I saw him, or at least I saw the groaning for him. In this, I learned to recognize the hollow, the search for God, and the deep longing for him (for fulfillment) in the needles, the skin, and the bottle. I recognized his wooings in every metaphor. I saw the desire for skin on skin as the soul looking for home, for intimacy. I saw the body, made for God, as an original intention, as a belonging.
Our lives are made of metaphor, and we can recognize Jesus throughout creation and in those who have never heard his name. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1 that no one has an excuse. God is everywhere. Yoga poses and Gregorian chant, buttermilk cornbread, the Grand Canyon, and the picture of a rainbow drawn by the hand of my two-year-old all speak of him if we're looking. Don't make a mistake and hear that I worship those things; no, instead I worship the God of the universe who is. 'For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.' His scent wafts through tent cities, jail cells, granite kitchens, and marble palaces. He beckons us in all places. Where can I go from him? The echo of him in metaphor throughout the earth is undeniable when one wakes to him.
When I first believed, I walked around in a clumsy prayer, so awake, listening for God in the falling acorn, in everything. I was free to lapse into long spiritual metaphor simply by hearing my alarm clock. Some might accuse me of being led purely by emotion. Let it be so. It was the feeling of love, of very first love. Let it also be understood that I studied Scripture like a brain on steroids. I studied homiletics. It was a mind transformation, a decision as best as one knows how to make in the midst of being overcome. I was ridiculous really, and I didn't need cigarettes or anything else--not a cute tush, no nightlong blitzes, and certainly not a fella to keep me company.
I didn't have the language for it then, but I saw the Imago Dei everywhere and in everyone. I saw myself as a child of God, Abba letting me come to him, boldly and with ease, in the gentleness of relationship. I was confident, and I saw God as one who loved me completely as a good Father. And Jesus--he, my love, my brother--became my friend. He was becoming the only place that made any sense to me, the only way to see the world."
But Amber's story never feels all cleaned up. And that, my friends, is the beauty of this book.
This book isn't just for those who know and love Jesus and have made mistakes along the way--although it will touch those folks deeply.
No. It's more than that.
I believe that this book can sing over those who are hell bent on living but are killing themselves in the striving.
It whispers in the ears of those who desire connection and have reached for flesh on bone but come back empty handed, every time.
It cradles those whose arms are riddled with tracks that lead to dark spaces and smooths the hair of folks sick on bitterroot.
It shakes out the quilts of those who have wrapped themselves up so tightly with the hope that nothing will ever touch them. There.
This book invites.
"Come, everyone who thirst,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live."
Isaiah 55: 1-3 ESV
At times, I went under.
But I was not afraid.
This book speaks to places deep and important and it opens the door to much needed conversation about brokenness and redemption.
I would love to talk about those things with you in the comments:
How have you found beauty in the brokenness?
How has your brokenness actually led to your healing?
What have been your experiences with the church and how has that contributed to your brokenness and/or your healing?
Free copy of Wild in the Hollow has been gifted.
Thank you for your comments.
If you don't win a copy of the book, I hope that you will buy a copy for yourself anyway. Wild in the Hollow can be purchased here. To read more of Amber's beautiful words, subscribe to her blog.
In closing, I'll let Amber tell you about her book in her own words.