A marriage of philosophy, theology, art, and imagination
On Monday I will begin my last classes for my graduate degree. After journeying along with my cohort for the last several years, we will graduate together in mid-May. For nearly a decade I meandered around seminaries and graduate programs, requesting information packets, visiting campuses, but never fully dipped my toes in. I felt an internal call toward something but did not know what that something was.
In the first class for our program we were assigned Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith and Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, and I knew then, I’d found my something.
I am beginning to think about what’s next and recently I was talking with a professor friend and he asked what my dream program for any further education would be. I said, “Some marriage between philosophy, theology, art, and imagination.” I am interested in how humans are formed and, specifically, how the work of creative writing forms us spiritually.
I am trying my best to continue showing up in this space with regularity, but I’m also forehead deep in research and writing for my next book on top of finishing school, so my mental landscape is a bit crowded these days. Since January 1st, I’ve read over 60 books and written more than 30,000 words. I’m not boasting—please don’t hear that—I’m exhausted. And yet, I’m also feeling more and more and more like I am doing what I am meant to do for the rest of my life. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt that way before.
Apart from a blip last summer when I released A Curious Faith (and struggled with the malady common to most of us writers, “OMG, please buy my book because I already got paid for it and what if they got it wrong?!”), I’ve had a mostly indifferent attitude toward using social media for work. The more time away, the more my interior life has bloomed and the more excited I am about the actual work in front of me. It is as though I am pulling back a sticky web that’s been over me and saying, “Oh, there you are.” I’m saving my best words for the manuscript, so you’re not seeing them here for now, but just know I’m mining for goodness there and it’s forming in me something deep.
This February marks two years since starting this Substack. I originally started it as a way to keep some more controversial subjects behind a paywall, while still maintaining Sayable.net for the same fare folks have found there for, yes, over twenty years (can you believe it?). But last fall I migrated everything over here to Substack because it is, without question, the easiest platform I have ever used in my over twenty years of writing online. Being freed up from the headache of website back-ends, mailing lists, front-end design, payments, all of it, is such a relief. I think the move over here has also helped in untethering me from social media. Apart from articles, I have one other place to show up online for work and that’s here.
Anyway, I brought that up because after two years here, you guys have kept Sayable in the top twenty of its category for both paying and free subscribers and I am wildly, wildly honored and grateful for that. I wish I could do more to thank you. Book writing doesn’t pay a lot, or, if it does, it spreads the payments out so widely (1/3 on signing, 1/3 on completion of manuscript, and 1/3 upon publication—meaning they’re usually spread out over two entire years) that it’s hard to budget, so being able to count on your support here has meant a lot to our family. I mean that with all my heart.
As much as I love writing books, spaces like these will always have my heart the most. I learned to write on LiveJournal and Xanga and Blogger and Wordpress and Squarespace, and now I continue learning here on Substack. Just this week I’ve gotten four messages from readers who have been reading since 2005, 2010, 2011, and 2017. That is not a small thing to me. I recognize how many things are competing for our attention and how many thinkers are both wiser and better writers than I am, and yet your faithfulness to showing up here and supporting Sayable just means the world. I am here because of you. If none of you ever bought one of my books, I’d still be showing up in these spaces and doing this for you.
And also for me.
Why? Because the work of writing has formed me more than any other discipline, relationship, challenge, or doctrine. It has been the (sometimes) public working out of my salvation. It has been an embarrassment. It has been a joy. It has been a mortification. It has been a grief. It has been the single best thing I’ve ever done with my life. That you continue showing up humbles me and makes me desire to show up here in a way that leads to all of us flourishing.
So this is just me saying to you, thank you. That’s it. Just thank you.
Have you ordered my newest book? A Curious Faith: The Questions God Asks, We Ask, and Wish Someone Would Ask Us. Available now, wherever books are sold: Amazon | Baker Book House | Bookshop
Also available: Handle With Care: How Jesus Redeems the Power of Touch in Life and Ministry
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If we could all work out our salvation openly, publicly, together - wouldn't that change 'the church' from the inside out? To be honest. To wrestle in the open with our oh so human issues. To be received and still loved. Wouldn't more people have 'oil in their lamps' on the day our groom returns? Wouldn't more people truly gather in the name of Jesus, and not self?
Wow, Xanga. What a throwback. I would kill to read your Xanga posts. I would die of embarrassment reading mine.