What Writing Means to Me (Part 5)

(Continued from Part 4.)

Okay, I lied.

I told you that we would continue this series with a discussion of the writer-poser, but I’ve tried writing that part of the story at least five times and have decided I just can’t do it.

It’s not that I can’t confess what it was like to be me in that place—that part of the story is definitely going to “go public” real soon—but instead that I can’t plunge into a description of the writer-poser self without detouring into the spiritual upheaval God began working in me at about that same time in our story.

Along about my junior year in college, right after I had gotten married and right before I discovered the path to creative writing and editing, God flipped my life upside-down. Really.

I should stop here and say that this is not the sort of thing that’s good for a brand-new marriage. But when God begins flipping your life upside-down and you’re 100 percent sure that it’s Him doing it, it would be kind of pointless and self-defeating—in the truest sense of the word—to ignore Him, brand-new marriage or not.

So, I listened. And here’s what He did: He had me read a book.

An adjunct professor I had during my sophomore year of college knew a guy who wrote a book. The guy was Clifford Williams, and the book was Singleness of Heart. This was a book about the spiritual journey, my professor said, that pulled from lots of great, classical works of literature in its explanation of the spiritual life and the human heart. Since my instructor knew the author, he had tons of copies of the book, and he was willing to give a copy to anyone who wanted it—free—so long as we promised to read it.

Free book? Spiritual journey? Great literature? Where do I sign up?


When I finally picked the book up, a few months after I got it, I had no idea I was holding in my hands a ticking time bomb, just waiting to explode. And of all the things I learned from that book, here are two of the most mind-blowing realizations it created for me at the time.

First, I came to admit that I had no real understanding of grace, didn’t really believe I needed it, and, since we’re being completely honest here, didn’t see what the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, had to do with me. Ouch. Who admits these things, really?

Second, I came to see that I had been living with doubleness of heart my entire life. (Remember the title of the book? Singleness of Heart. The goal of the book was to get you to see your own doubleness so you could, with God’s help, find the path that leads to singleness instead.) Despite what I knew about the traditional stream of doubleness—namely, the path of the hypocrite who lives an out-and-out existence of perversion without shame—this book defined a subtler side that shined a mirror back at my own face.

You could be double-minded, Williams said, and not know it. You could be double-minded, in fact, and still love God with what you thought was your whole heart. And you could do this in one or two ways: through the unwitting mechanism of ambivalence, which means living with an authentic proclivity and aversion to someone or something at one and the same time, or through the equally unwitting mechanism of illusion, which means thinking you want or act on behalf of something you don’t actually want or act on behalf of.

These are incredibly simplified ways of describing what are quite delicate and complex ways of being—and without any of the author’s helpful, more thorough explanations—but the truth basically boils down to this: You could be living a life of doubleness, via ambivalence or illusion, and be completely ignorant of this fact. And that was exactly me.

Thus, the sturdy boat of my life began to leak and, eventually, break. Thank the Lord God above.