... you might notice my book page has been updated ... Well, change is in the air and I have some big news about the book ...
Yes, I am still writing a book.
Yes, it's still going to be called Tables in the Wilderness.
But, it's not a book about engaging Scripture in such a way so as to see the creation as icon of the Creator. Or, it is, but at the same time it isn't.
A few weeks ago I sat down to begin writing the book as originally planned. After a few days, I had nearly 4,000 words. The process was natural, the flow exceptional, but I began to notice that the book I was writing wasn't really a book about Scripture. It was a book about me. Some of my best friends pointed this out as well. I justified the move by reasoning that I'm still a little young to write the book about how we should be reading Scripture. While I think I could do it, I think I want to save that for when graduate school is over and I have all the pretty letters in front of my name that lend some credibility to what I am saying.
Even then, what I tried to write as the story of how I myself came to read Scripture different was really something else entirely. This is what came out as the opening section:
When you grow up evangelical in the South, you hear God speak all the time.
Over the mashed potatoes, under the watch of the calligraphic Scriptures on the walls; in Carl Kasell’s voice over the radio on your way to school. You invite God to coffee to study the Bible with you and He sits beside you on the bus to church camp and laughs at all your jokes. You hear Him that night on the jungle gym and that time you stood at the corner of downtown with a sandwich in your hand wondering why you got up in the middle of the Ash Wednesday service and fled. And you keep hearing Him, years on end, even on that Sunday you sit in the parking lot of the small Episcopal church after the Baptist-based ministry you felt Him call you to do has crumbled and you are so vacant and so wavering that you tell Him you’re done, you’re empty, and He tells you to walk into church.
But one September morning, when you least expect it, you’re sitting in a friend’s apartment in the middle of September after a belated celebration of your birthday the night before—in which you drank French 75s and read aloud a short story you wrote about lighthouses and champagne, after which your friend tells you you’re sill in love with the girl you broke up with a year ago and you should call her, find out where things stand—and you’re reading the Gospel of Luke when you feel suddenly, keenly, that Christ the Lord is sitting beside you on the couch as you’re reading. It’s a different kind of hearing. It’s almost the tangible kind. Since this is new, you try to make pious small talk, pointing out that you hadn’t noticed before in the Song of Zechariah that Christ is there called the rising sun. But He doesn’t want to make small talk.
“It’s going to be about trust with you."
Eight words. Ten syllables.
Then He’s gone. And you stop hearing God speak altogether.
It’s just you, the King James, and the Silence, which is really, truly, a feeling of Absence.
And you think it might be the middle of something, or the end. Eventually, nearly a year later, you see it as a beginning. But the seeing takes time. For a little while, it’s just going to be you and the Silence.
As two very close friends pointed out, I was writing a different story.
I was writing my story, the story of how I became an accidental Baptist with Episcopalian flares, or an accidental Episcopalian with Baptist theology, or something; the story of buying prayerbooks the same day I walked out of a church service; the story of the day I felt Jesus sit beside me on a couch, say it would be about trust with me, and then packed up His boxes and left. And it's the story of the day He came back. And what happened after. And what happened before all of that.
I wrote a draft chapter and sent it to my editor, explaining what had happened. (Fortunately for us, the contract I had signed was for a title, not a synopsis, and the title I had signed for fits this project so perfectly it could only be accounted as coming in the fullness of time.)
Fortunately, my editor loved the first chapter.
What I am writing, friends, is Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir.
It's the book I've been writing all along, really, which is what some close and wonderful friends have pointed out. I want to thank all of you who have journey with me in this space, who have made this blog a place to be, because it gave me the freedom to write a draft chapter, it gave me the freedom to realize the story that needs telling: what happens when you don't doubt God, but God stops speaking altogether? How do you learn to live?
I'm still answering that question. If the ending for the book I have in mind stays the ending, my answer is that you spend your life trying to figure that out. Lily pad to lily pad, we find God surprising us by preparing tables in this vagabond world, this wilderness around us.
Come with me, on this journey? It's going to be an interesting next couple of months.
P.S. What does no one tell you, upfront, about writing a book like this? You spend a lot of time undergoing periods of self-loathing, because you have to confront all the crap you pulled in your past and, God forbid, you're still pulling now. You also spend a lot of time figuring out if you're going to change some people's names and, if so, to what. Names should say something, right? And if your thoughts toward a person aren't exactly positive but you're supposed to do this whole forgiveness thing, referring to an ex-girlfriend's significant other as "Shiny, happy, Lars from Norway, who met [ex-girlfriend] when she threw a frisbee on the beach and it ricocheted off his abs," is not exactly the best route to go.