Asking the right (write?) questions

He:  “You look like a person who gives all their heart.”

She:  “It’s hard to give less, you know.”

…and later, from her, ” I gave all my heart outright and I’m still waiting for Him to make Himself at home.”

These are lines from a film I watched last night, Higher Ground based on the book, This Dark World, a memoir by Carolyn Briggs.

It isn’t a love-heart story but one about hearts for God, hearts for Jesus and one woman’s wonder with the steadfast faith she has in Him and struggling, seeking, and needing to know His steadfast faith in her.  She opened the door as a child and wonders why it doesn’t feel like God is at home in her heart, as He seems to be to all those around her.

The story stayed with me through the night, weaving its way into my dreams and framing the morning’s lectionary readings.

From my perspective as a believer and follower of Jesus, the film is about as authentic as a commercially produced film can get, not giving way to cliched caricatures of saved Christians.  I was impressed with the breadth of scriptural references and the way in which holy moments – speaking in tongues, praising God, praying – were treated respectfully and honestly.

But I wonder what a non-believer would think.  Or for that matter, a Roman Catholic or a Mormon?  I wonder if any would even have the patience to sit through the film as it explores the wonder and saving grace of God, through Jesus Christ?

Does the film and stories like it only speak-teach-preach to the choir?  That’s the question the Spirit touched me with this morning.

Which lead me to hear the Spirit suggesting it might be the question I was really asking in yesterday’s post in which I was wondering about blogging.

So, back to the film question:  Does this film and stories like it only speak-teach-preach to the choir?  And blogs that explore similar issues, to whom do they speak-teach-preach?  Is it just the choir?

I found the author’s Q&A regarding the memoir helpful in answering the question and here, below, is an excerpt.

Why did you write your memoir in the first place?

A: I never intended to write a memoir. I had written a short story titled “Incarnate” in graduate school that won New Letters’ Heartland Short Fiction prize. The story borrowed from my life’s experience within a religious community. My agent suggested I try writing nonfiction and write a memoir. I loved having the cloak of fiction, and the thought of baring all and owning it on the page was intimidating. Truth is the most powerful element of successful fiction and nonfiction, and I knew I couldn’t write a memoir unless I was willing to tell the truth to myself as well as to others.

Do you have any regrets in writing This Dark World?

A: Sure. I wish I would have allowed for more time to pass, so that my perspective cleared a bit. I regret the book was edited in such a way that I appear to have wholly rejected my faith—which I have not ever been able to do. In writing memoir, one tells one’s story, obviously, but one also tells other people’s stories who may not want their stories told—especially from someone else’s perspective. I have wrestled with this reality and continue to as the film is released.

As a side note: My dad, C.W. Walters, loved my book. After reading the manuscript, he said, “You gotta say it the way it was. It hurts, but it’s the way it was.” When the book was published, he invited all of his retired friends to his bachelor pad living room, and he threw me a party with a bakery-ordered cake, my book cover in frosting. My father died suddenly less than a month after my book was published. His is the only actual name in the movie, and I dedicated the screenplay to him.

Where are you with your faith right now?

A: I could not live in a world without God. And this God is big enough to contain my doubts. Tobias Wolff says doubt is part of faith. Doubt and faith can co-exist; each informs the other. My faith infuses my doubt and my doubt infuses my faith. What else can I do but keep seeking God? Tolstoy advised a life of seeking God because that assures a life with God.

Do you consider yourself a Christian?

A: I understand that Christian hipsters are using the hyphenated word Christ-follower these days. I’m too old and not cool enough to be a hipster, but I love that idea. I am striving, pressing on, working out my salvation in fear and trembling. I can’t think of anyone or anything better to follow than Jesus Christ.

I never intended, either, to write a blog.   And yet, here I am.  Who reads?  Who has patience?  Who gets it?  After seeing the film last night and seeing how it framed my scriptural reading and my day, I am thinking the answer to these questions is, the they aren’t the right (write?) questions.

I don’t think the purpose of this blog is to speak-teach-preach to anyone.  Rather, it is a way for the Spirit to speak-teach-preach to ME.  I seek and am sought.  And opening my heart more each day for Him.

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