Will you accept my prayers, Lord, my real prayers, rooted in the muck and mud and rock of my life, and not just my pretty cut-flower, gracefully arranged bouquet of words? (Excerpt from “How Shall I Pray?” in Ted Loder’s book Guerrillas of Grace.)
I sit with my computer awaiting some great awakening. Hoping for some impressive insight into the brokenness of our world. And yet each time I sit to write, I stare at a blank page, close the screen, and promise myself I will return.
In college I was an Interdisciplinary Studies major. You may, like many, ask what that even means. Basically I created my own major, pulling from various disciplines to address a specific guiding question that eventually turned into my final paper. As an interdisciplinary studies major, I had to write a significant final paper, my mini-thesis as I like to call it. Therefore, our senior capstone class was heavily focused on writing. Dr. Davis, my professor, made us set goals for how many pages we would write each week. Some weeks I wrote 10, other weeks I deleted 10 and wrote 20 more. Let me get to the point, since I’m pretty sure your interest in how I earned my college degree is slim to none. Every class, Dr. Davis reminded us of this: Even when you don’t know what to write, try to get some ideas down on paper. They don’t have to make sense, and they may not even become part of your final work, but by getting your ideas on paper you begin the creative process that will lead to something great.
As I write this, I am not even sure why it has felt so difficult to write this month’s reflection. It could be the business of a new job and tiredness that results from extra use of emotional energy. Or it may be that our leadership in El Salvador is struggling to make ends meet and considering stepping down from coordinating MVP. Perhaps it comes with the month of January – a month to remember El Salvador’s greatest indigenous massacre in 1932 or Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010. Or it could be the darkness of winter.
Yet as my fingers tap at the keyboard, I begin to feel a pulse of energy run through me. I am reminded of a hero we celebrated just last week – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A man who fought for justice, freedom, equality, and dignity in our world. And as I remember the endless quotes of this hero, I am reminded of other heroes in my life. Of all the students in El Salvador who decided to return to school for another year this month. Who made the decision to put school over all else – whether it means less income for their family or a dangerous walk to school each day. And I am reminded of our MVP volunteers, who are some of my greatest heroes. Women and men who choose to dedicate several hours every week to the neighborhood school, to becoming part of the lives of the students who attend and who believe firmly that the Gospel has the power to transform lives and communities.
This reflection has a lot about me, myself, and I. And while I considered deleting it all and starting over once again, I decided it was worth sharing. Sharing the “muck and mud and rocks.” This is the unfiltered version, my thoughts blotted onto the page, my internal process externally expressed. It is true and it is real.
Sometimes we feel the heaviness of a season. Yet in the midst of this heaviness, if we find a way to let our creative process to flow, we just might find glimpses of hope in the heroes around us. This post is not about peace in El Salvador per say, but about honest reflection and embracing life in all its emotional breadth. Until we allow ourselves to truly feel, we cannot find internal peace. And without being rooted in such peace, we cannot fully dream or work for peace in our world.
My greatest hope is that you feel connected to me, that you can identify with me in this mismatched reflection on writing, the silence of January, and heroes. And that this deep human connection would allow for genuine sharing of our human journeys – the sadness and the joys, the struggles and the victories. May we allow ourselves to be transparent, fully true to all that is within.
I hope you continue to walk with me on this journey.