A Book Can Be a Mirror, or How Far I'm Willing to Jump

It's finally time.

Amazing exercise created by Susannah Conway

So, this is a little bit of a long one, so you might want to tuck in ... 


For perhaps the whole month of December, I had a sense that 2012 would be a very new experience. 

I've spent the last four and a half years being busy. I finished a master's degree in business in 13 months and then moved straight into a 3-year program for a second master's degree in spiritual formation, while simultaneously enrolling in a separate 3-year training course in the ministry of spiritual direction. And then upon graduation from both programs in June 2011, I dove headfirst into a contract project that kept me sprinting through November. 


But as things settled down in December and I reflected on all that had come before -- all the preparation that several years of intensive study and training had poured into me, all the intimations of where and how God was leading me to work, and a half-year's practice in being faithful to it -- I then looked ahead to 2012 and sensed myself on the edge of something new. 

In the way that 2011 was a year of preparations coming to an end and of learning to be faithful to what God gave and led me to do, I sensed that 2012 was going to be a year of fullness.

Not busyness -- fullness

Where all my vocational treasures are kept.

Where God is calling me to work,

and where I keep my vocational treasures 

When Kirk and I returned from our holiday trip to California and I was deep in the throes of jet lag, I stayed up into the wee hours one night and created the above filofax/planner for myself.

It's a place to store all my vocational treasures -- a place for me to brainstorm ideas and remember ideas and work through ideas. It's a place to store my brain waves when inspiration strikes because relying on my memory to keep track of it all is a completely useless endeavor more and more these days. :-)

Ready to make a new friend.

And then there's the above book, which Kirk got me for Christmas.

It touches on the section in my vocation planner concerning my blog about nonviolence, Journey Toward Nonviolence. For a while now, I've been carrying around a question about that blog. I've continued to wonder what level of commitment I am meant to bring to that space, since previously busy seasons have kept me from being faithful to it in the ways I've longed to be.

The questions of nonviolence -- or, more pointedly, the question of how we grow in our capacity to love other human beings -- is one that continues to take up joint residence in the penthouse suite of my heart. (It bunks in the penthouse suite with another part of me that fervently longs to connect people to God.)

So when Kirk got me this book for Christmas, it provoked that question again.

This book holds the diaries and letters of a young woman named Etty Hillesum. She's a Jew who was killed in Auschwitz at the age of twenty-nine and wrote copiously in her letters and journals the last couple years of her life. Most specifically, she is known for being someone who explored the deep questions of how to love one's enemies and forgive them.

It makes me shake sometimes to read her words -- just the holiness of her journey and questions, given the reality she faced and the way she eventually died. On Christmas, when I received the book, tears pricked my eyes just from reading the first paragraph of the book's introduction.

Yes, this book told me, the subject of nonviolence still touches a very deep part of me. It means something to me still.

Together again.

So I continued to carry the question, and when we returned to Florida after the holidays, I slowly started to integrate some of the elements of this part of my heart into my daily life.

Like, for instance, reading sections of MLK's autobiography before bed or during my morning hours of quiet. 

Or reading the article Kirk left on my desk on Martin Luther King Day -- an article printed in RELEVANT magazine about the limits of civil disobedience.

This past weekend, I grafted that article into My Year With Gandhi journal -- a journal that hadn't been pulled off my bookshelf in at least 6 months. 

This book arrived today and is already rocking my world.

And then today, this book

I had heard of Ann Voskamp before and have even visited her blog a few times over the years when friends have linked to her posts.

But I'd never made a connection with her writing until now. 

I'm not going to go into the details of this book because I think it's one that needs to be experienced firsthand. But I will tell you this: this girl doesn't pull any punches. From the very first page, you feel like your inner distractions get pulled up by the scruff of the neck real quick and you're reoriented to pay complete attention. On the second page, you learn some really hard truths about the author's life, and it's enough to make you realize from the get-go: Wow. This girl really won't pull any punches. 

She's willing to go to deep, dark, and difficult places ... and yet somehow pulls out the sacred and beautiful. 

In reading just the first few hundred words in this book, I couldn't help but hear the question posed back to me, like a mirror: What about you, Christianne? 

My workspace.

One -- big -- reason I keep hesitating to fully commit to my online nonviolence space is because of those loud, snarling, rabid-dog voices we all hear in the back of our heads sometimes.

Those voices are snarling that I write too much, think too much, care too much, and dream and idealize things too much. They tell me I'm not practical, that I've got my head in the clouds, and the ideas related to nonviolence that captivate me so much don't translate well in reality. 

They want me to doubt the convictions forming in me. 

They also want me to just be quiet. You already write here on Lilies, they say, and five days a week on Still Forming. Do you really need a third place to offer your voice? People will get tired of hearing your voice so much -- and you'll get tired of hearing it too. Just be quiet and go away. 

Yep. Those voices snarl at me in my head on a pretty regular basis when I think about this. 

But this book of Ann Voskamp's that I received in the mail today shouted those voices down, at least for a moment. This girl doesn't pull any punches, it showed me, and then it turned to me and asked: What about you? 

For some mysterious reason only God really knows, my deep resonance with the philosophy of nonviolence is an important part of me, and I need to continue exploring it, understanding it, making sense of it, and honoring it.

Even if no one else reads along. Even if the plethora of words I write only overwhelm everyone else. Even if my thoughts are still scattered and unformed right now. Even if I feel like I'm hacking through a tall, thick wheat field as I go.

And so I will.