I have often thought of year in review or top ten lists from a year as more an exercise for the writer than the reader, and I think I still do. But the work of a writer is to keep exercising and sometimes exercise publicly, and so here is the sweat and blood of 2022.
In January, I began a three and a half month sabbatical from work, which included emails, articles, social media, and most book work. It was such a rich and rewarding time for me and I had absolutely nothing to show for it.
In February, I wrote about The Hospitable God and the difficulty of friendships in our forties, especially when those forties coincide with a pandemic, a fought political season, a cross-country move, and more.
In March, nearing the end of my sabbatical, I wrote about what I was learning about desire, joy, play, and delight in An Invitation to Desire, and also about The Surety of Every Living Thing and what that means for our faith. And, because I was nothing if not prolific in March, I mulled about The Goodness of Hiddenness or The Hiddenness of Goodness. Finally, I rounded the month out with a piece on owning up to the parts I’ve played in promoting brokenness in, I Was Wrong and I’m Sorry.
April brought a bit of snow showers but also some flowers. It also brought the end of my Sabbatical, which I found more difficult to emerge than I hoped for. Silencing the clamoring crowd meant I was able to hear the Spirit’s voice and my own a bit more potently and I found it to be good for me. I wrote about that here in Rooted Aliens and Settle Strangers. Then I reflected on an Invitation to Party with God after throwing my dearest friend a 40th birthday party. Then I asked the question, “What would be different if we knew we were radically loved?” and asked it publicly here, in The Heart is Loved Above All Things and Desperately Loved. I wrote about writers being silent prophets before public ones here. And then I finished the month writing about how I planned to reengage on social media as my sabbatical ended.
In May, as we neared the release of A Curious Faith, I wrote To Be Like Christ, Be Like a Dog, and all these months later, I’m still thinking about its themes. Near the end of the month, I went on a retreat with a few other writers and then invited you on one as well (The invitation is still open, if you’re interested!).
In June, I also invited you to come with me to Israel next fall. The trip still has plenty of space and I would still love to have you along for it. And then I wrote about God being the Safest Being in the Universe. On June 16, after the encouragement of a few friends, I wrote about the Wilbert family’s process of studying God’s word on gay marriage and what it means to embrace an uncomfortable space in Loved, Assumed, Hated.
In July, inching toward ACF’s release, I wrote more about faith and constructs and deconstruction and belief in The Needed Crisis of Self-Faith. And then in The Cure for Envy, I wrote about learning to be an outsider. Then I pulled back the curtain a bit for non-writers on How Do We Solve the Problem of Amazon?
In August, I wrote a pseudo-review of No One is Talking About This, which also made my best books list this year. And then, in the frenetic weeks of releasing the book and the temptation (which I wasn’t alway successful at resisting) to “humble brag” I wrote, Humbled in the Presence of Yourself. A few days later I shared, I’m a Fool You See: Thoughts on the dying of the light. Nearing the end of August, I wrote, Learning to Be-Loved, which carries the echos of lingering thoughts from my Sabbatical. I finished the month writing about memories and what we do when our memory is different than another’s of the same event, in The World as Best as I can Remember It (in a clear nod to my favorite lyricist, Rich Mullins).
In September, a full month after the release of ACF, I needed some helpful words and a friend delivered them, helping me to remember who I am. I wrote about Midlife and Iconography and Repetitive Art and how it all helps me worship God and make more art.
In October, I wrote about not listening to a wise mentor and making a decision I deeply regretted later in The More I Do, the Less I Am. And a few days later, the intentionally click-baity titled, I Left the Church, which was one of the hardest pieces to press publish on this year. After an exercise in forgiveness, I shared about Our Invisible Malady and what a difference forgiveness makes.
In November, I wrote about being a tired perennial and submitting to one’s environment. And then, as the word grew grayer around us, I wrote about the loss of faith institutions and the difficulty of remaining buoyant through it all in Bobbers, Buoys, and The Broken Things. I closed out the month (and the liturgical year) with a piece on Walking in the Dark Without Reaching for a Light.
In December, I wrote about the breakdown of Christian friendships the last few years and shared some work by others that was informing how I think about these things in On a Boat in the Middle of the Sea. And then, finally, I shared my top ten books of 2022 and asked you to share yours.
As I said above, perhaps this was more a good exercise for me than for you, but I hope you’ll find one or two pieces above that bless or encourage you. If you can only read two, my favorites from 2022 were:
To Be Like Christ, Be Like a Dog:
We’re still sniffing it all out, we’re still engaged in our perceptions, and we’re still, with every step, arriving. This is the work of the Christian in the world. To arrive today, to arrive tomorrow, and to keep on arriving, despite what others say about us along the way.
But then I think of my writing heroes, Frederick Buechner, Eugene Peterson, Madeleine L’Engle, Annie Dillard, Parker Palmer, Barbara Brown Taylor, Kathleen Norris, Wendell Berry, Brian Doyle—I would (and nearly have!) buy everything they’ve written and without hesitation. If that is a definition of a true fan, then I am one. But it is not lost on me that they have all either died in recent years or will die soon, probably. Sometimes I wonder if they are the last of their kind. Sometimes I wonder if our world is too uninhabitable for writers of their caliber any longer. There are so many up and comers these days but I’m not sure any of us can do what they did unless we make some real and lasting changes to the publishing industry, top down and bottom up.
Finally, dear readers, I just wanted to say a thank you to each of you. This was a bit of a topsy-turvy year for me between my Sabbatical, the release of A Curious Faith, and the move from sayable.net to lorewilbert.com. Thank you for sticking with me through it and thank you for continuing to read my words here. That is not a gift I look at lightly and I am grateful for each of you.
See you next year =)
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what is your specific "burden" of writing on social media? Is it the limitations imposed? I am wondering if you could just write your substack writing :) without the pressure, and just have someone else choose the 1 or 2 sentences to post on FB or Instagram. I fear that it is mainly 1 or 2 sentences that keep the attention of the "scrollers" anway.
And secondly, I for one, believe you have the depth and potential of those forementtioned writers you admire! Those very original unique thoughts of yours are what make me want to be a "paid subscriber." To honor your talent and craft, as well as (hopefully) help you further your gift.
Nadia Bolz-Weber, another substack writer, said something in regards to courage of writing. What she said reminded me of you, and how you are a forrunner, a way forger, for others to also publish their thoughts, without that fear question you mention. What will they think?
Ann Lamott said, if my relatives don't like what I wrote in my stories, they should have been nicer to me. Hahaha. I think that is so spot on.
Keep pouring out dear! You are loved. And your thoughts are spot on :)