I’m currently working on a fiction story.
I’ve been working on it since 2014 when my faith and the church around me felt like it was crumbling.
I had just come home from the World Race which was this intense year of life where I pushed through things that I probably shouldn’t have just pushed through. I was carrying stories in my backpack that I didn’t need to be carrying.
I didn’t know how to start processing through the things I was carrying. I didn’t know what I felt.
All I knew is that my faith felt broken and I needed to figure out what to do about that.
So, I started writing.
My story begins with the end. It begins with the main character Vera, walking away from the church. Filling up boxes and moving away from a life that she had always lived because she realized that all it had done was hurt her.
She packed things up though because she wasn’t throwing everything away. She knew that there were parts of her that had been made with that life that she didn’t want to get rid of. She wasn’t going to throw the baby out with the bath water, but she was going to for sure change the water.
I wrote that story more throughout my time in Spain and over the years I’ve revisited it here and there.
This past three weeks I’ve worked on it every single day.
And it’s been bringing up stuff that I didn’t realize I held onto.
Here’s the bottom line: I didn’t realize the depths of my church/religious trauma.
Because this is the thing about writing fiction (at least for me); the story comes from the places deep inside that need to be made sense of. They come from the places that are twisty and the only way in which I can untwist them is to put them outside of myself and start writing.
Then, like the lights that you put on your Christmas tree, they slowly start to become a string of lights and not a tangled mess.
And you begin to see what lights are out from the last Christmas, places where the garland wouldn’t untangle or even maybe remnants of last year’s tree.
You can’t discover those things unless you sufficiently detangle the lights.
Sometimes you don’t realize something is broken until you put it next to something that isn’t broken.
Sometimes you don’t realize something hurt you until you start talking about it in a fictional sense and realize that you feel deeper about it.
When the storytelling begins to not be storytelling anymore.
I haven’t really decided what I’m going to do with the stories I have that feel heavy or who I might need to talk to.
I know I have situations and people from my past that I need to let go of. I know there are people I need to write letters to that I will never send.
I know that there are spaces where I was told to be quiet and I was and I still am.
There are things that I believed to be true, that aren’t.
There are words that have shamed me into believing I wasn’t enough that are all the way from when I was a teenager in high school youth group.
Or moments where they sat high schoolers in a room and had them watch a terrfying movie about “the rapture” so we lived in fear of not living up to a standard that was even there.
There are farfetched relationship ideals that I don’t believe I can ever reach too.
There are intense shameful parameters around sex that have warped my brain.
There has been church leadership that never supported me and told me to just listen to God.
Spiritual “authorities” that told me my depression was sinful and that I didn’t trust enough.
Men who told me I shouldn’t speak, or that I didn’t hear from God and that I should just stay in women’s ministry or children’s ministry.
And sometimes these things make me angry. Not all the time, just sometimes and in very specific instances.
But I’m choosing, as I chose for my main character, to not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
I just need fresh water.
Because there are things that I want to keep and hold.
And things I just don’t need anymore.
So Vera and I are walking this together. When I write out a scene I go back later and meet with it.
I see if we have anything in common. I see if it hits me between the eyes. And if it does? I sit with it. If it doesn’t? I still sit with it because it came from somewhere.
So that’s where I am today. I wrote this at the end of watching church from couch and I currently have worship music playing and it isn’t causing a reaction within me.
Do I still ferociously scroll past jesus tiktok? Yes. Do I swipe away from men who talk about ‘Jesus’ in their dating profile?
My faith has dramatically changed since Meghan the high schooler who sang on the worship team and went to youth group every Sunday night and went on mission trips to Mexico on spring break, and attending Christian concerts and music festivals.
I’ve been on mission trips to 13 countries and attending a Christian university, I’ve worked at three churches at one time.
And even though parts of those things hurt me and changed pieces of me in ways I might not get back, there are moments that I don’t want to give away either.
The beautiful thing about something breaking is that when you put it back together again you can choose different.
You can choose to see the pieces in a different way and create something new.
Faith is not a piece of Ikea furniture.
You can get creative.
So, this is where I live now. Continuing to write a fiction story that is helping me unearth and replant things, that’s help me to clean up and see the beauty in certain places.
Emptying my head of the Christmas lights to find out which are broken and deciding which strands can be fixed and which need to be tossed.
If you’re on this journey and need to throw all the lights out and start fresh- do it. If you need to be like me and replace the broken bulbs with new ones- do it.
There isn’t a science to building up what was broken.
Once again; faith is not a piece of Ikea furniture.
Be creative and kind to yourself.