The Difference Between an Idea and Incarnation

This week I'm thinking about ideas and how they turn out different than we expect when we put flesh to them. 

Take the book I'm writing for our Still Forming land. 

I started the process with not much more than the image of a territory in my mind and seven words that came to mind when I thought about the people living here — that they're welcoming, kind, open, brave, tender, honest, and reflective. 

I assumed the book would be broken into seven sections, one for each of those key words, with a few essays in each section reflecting on what that particular word means. 

Except as I've been working on the book, something else has emerged.

Through one of the exercises I tried to get my creative juices flowing, I was put back in touch with how transformation happens. We tell the truth. We explore. We encounter. We share. Others listen. 

I've been transfixed by this progression of verbs. And when it came time write out the central "What is it?" question about my book, those verbs of transformation helped me articulate this: 

  • This book explores what we need when we hit a spiritual wall. 

That's what it means, doesn't it? When we hit a metaphorical wall in our spiritual lives? It starts by telling the truth. This isn't working for me. I don't know if I believe this anymore. I don't know what this actually means. 

Then we enter the messy. The exploration of what's real and true. The incarnation of our real belief. 

We discover things here in this process we couldn't have imagined beforehand. We can't see our way through to the other side from the point where we begin. We have to go through the cave of exploration first. There, in the grist of darkness, we feel our way around rocks and curves, squeeze between boulders, and challenge what we're really made of.

The cave makes something of us. It shines an inner light on who we really are. In the exploring born from our truth-telling, we come face to face with encounter.

That's what this Still Forming land is all about, really. It's a place where people who are all those things — welcoming and kind, tender and brave, open and honest and reflective — will hold space for each other in the truth-telling and the caves, the encounters and whatever comes after.

Sitting here in the place of incarnation with this book, it's hard. I stare at blank pages. I feel scared. I don't know what I'm doing as I go. I type, delete. Type, delete. 

And then sometimes, while laying in bed and letting my thoughts roll around in the dark, memories and words begin to take shape, propelling me out of bed to write them down. 

It takes getting messy to make something real. But only through our willingness to enter into that messy do we experience what we could not have imagined at the entrance to the cave. Here begins the journey to the truly beautiful. 

Are there places where the idea of something feels safer than entering into the gritty incarnation of it for you? What would it be like to say out loud what it is?   


Much love,