Welcome, fellow travelers, to our eight-week discussion on Andrew’s new nonfiction book, Adorning the Dark. This week we’re reading the Prologue and Chapters 1-3. Click here for the full book club reading schedule and details.
I think of the last twenty-five or so years of writing and figure I should have something to say. Something, surely. …
I carry a persistent fear that my thoughts are incorrect, or silly, or so obvious they aren’t worth saying. Suddenly I’m a little boy, sitting in class like a solemn ghost. Mrs. Larson asks me a question, all the seven-year-old eyes in the room turn to me with expectation, and I’m frozen in place, terrified by the sudden realization that I’m expected to contribute. My cheeks flush and I want to go away to someplace safe—someplace like the woods or the eternal fields of green Illinois corn where I can watch and experience and listen without any demand to justify my existence. I’ve always been happy to be alone. God, however, never takes his eyes off me, and on my good days I believe that he is smiling, never demanding an answer other than the fact of myself. I exist as his redeemed creation, and that is, pleasantly, enough for him.
The rest of the world, though, is chugging along just fine whether I speak up or not. I’m the kid (and the man) who doesn’t raise his hand. Whenever I do, I regret it. Better to keep quiet, to work out my rejection with fear and trembling, and to keep hunting for a safe place where I’m never confronted with my own insignificance. And yet, at war with that desire to be invisible is a yearning to be seen and known and valued. That’s what really led to writing, if I’m honest. In the beginning it wasn’t about glorifying my Maker—it was about declaring my own existence, for my own sake. It took a long time to realize that was a dead end. Literally. This book is about a better way, and even now I have to fight to follow it.
Being a writer doesn’t just mean writing. It means finishing. I’ve heard it said that a song is never finished, only abandoned. That’s not true for me. To the contrary, I can’t wait to be done with the thing, because only once it’s finished can I raise my hand at the back of the class and say something that will be considered, not ignored, something that might be a blessing to someone. Only then do I begin to take on some flesh and stop haunting the room. Walt Wangerin Jr. said once that art isn’t art until it’s experienced by another.
Praise God, I was reckless enough to try this thing—not because my songs matter all that much, but because I would have possibly gone mad—a madness of self-hatred, self-disdain, self-flagellation. A madness of Self. “Take thy thoughts captive,” I imagine God saying. “Put them to music. Then aim them away from you. Love your neighbor as yourself.” I confess, a mighty fear of irrelevance drove me to this vocation, a pressing anxiety that unless you looked back at me with a smile and a nod and said, “Oh, I see you. You exist. You are real to me and to this world and we’re glad you showed up,” I might just wither away and die. That’s not exactly a noble reason to fling your creations into the world, but it’s a decent place to start. After that, the Lord can redeem your impulse for self-preservation by easing you toward love, which is never about self. But if you’re scared, there’s no rush. First you have to do something. You have to climb out from under the bushel and share your light with those around you. You have to believe that you’re precious to the King of Creation, and not just a waste of space.
You and I are anything but irrelevant. Don’t let the Enemy tell you any different. We holy fools all bear God’s image. We’re walking temples of the Spirit, the bashful bride of Christ, living stones in what is going to be a grand house, as holy and precious as anything else in the universe, if not more so. God is making us into a Kingdom, a lovely, peaceful one, lit by his love for us flowing toward one another. That’s the best gift you have to give.
—From chapter 3, “Scared and Sacred”
Discussion: What stood out to you in this week’s reading? What of Andrew’s experiences sounded familiar? What’s different?
Why do you write?
BONUS: The Monster in the Hollows book club kit is finally finished! Click the Book Club Kits tab and scroll down. 🙂