Sunday, April 12, 2009

Spiritual Stories

Everyone has a spiritual story. Even the people who think they don’t believe in anything. We all have a spirit, and those spirits are constantly writing away on their own autobiographies.

I love hearing people’s stories. In Baytown, I got to hear and write people’s stories on a regular basis for the local newspaper. What a humbling responsibility it is to take something as precious and intimate as someone’s personal account and turn into a written work. So many times, I sat down to write a feature and prayed that I would be somewhat capable enough of a writer to honor these people who had shared something so special with me. I wrote about survivors of the 1947 Texas City Disaster. I wrote about families devastated by Alzheimer’s Disease. I wrote about people whose homes were washed away by Carla and Alicia, the area’s most notorious hurricanes. I wrote about a dear woman at our church who had come from Mexico at 16 with nothing and eventually became Baytown’s first Habitat for Humanity house recipient. I loved hearing and writing people’s stories of strength, courage and hope in the face of adversity.

Because of the kind of writing I mostly do now, I don’t get to hear people’s stories as much as I used to. But I still wonder. Sitting in the sanctuary at Christ Church during Compline earlier tonight, I wondered about the people around me. I know why I’m there, but what brings them there? Is it the intimate, distraction-free time in God’s presence? Is it the pure voices of the Compline choir? What is it about their circumstances that calls them to seek out their Creator amid candlelight and ancient words? Is it a desire for communion with God? Is it guilt? Is it because they understand the word “sanctuary” to mean more than just a room in a church?

I wish I could write their stories.

Some people might call that nosy. But I like to think of it as being intrigued by the human experience in general. Maybe that’s a more positive way to say “nosy.”

I recently read Anne Rice’s spiritual autobiography. What an incredible story. And she tells this intensely personal account with such honesty – an honesty that ranges from sweet and reminiscent to heart-wrenching and brutal. Best known for her series of vampire books featuring the vampire Lestat, Rice spent her early years growing up in New Orleans as a devout Catholic. In college, Rice walked away from both the church and God, a process she calls “a catastrophe of the mind and heart.” For nearly four decades, Rice lived without faith. Then a series of events brought her back to God and to the religion of her childhood. “Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession” details Rice’s journey through the beauty and wonder of a developing faith, the excruciating loss of faith, and the joy – and pain – that accompanies a faith rediscovered and reborn.

Rice is remarkably candid in sharing this intimate process. More candid than I think I could be. My own spiritual auto-bio would stop abruptly with “TO BE CONTINUED” and a lot of blank pages to follow. And a fair amount of curse words thrown in, to be honest. Because, as Rice clearly illustrates, having a relationship with God has its seasons of hurt. Even for those of us who never lose our grip on our faith. Sometimes we are the foolishly enthusiastic Peter attempting to step out on the water, and sometimes we are the debilitated one having to be lowered through the roof to our Savior. Sometimes we reach out like the bleeding woman, hoping for a life-changing brush of his garment as he walks by. And sometimes we sit in a dimly-lit church with the choir’s reminder of “Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum” – “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation” – and wait for a heavenly hand to get on with it already and turn the page to the next chapter.

I miss writing other people’s stories. Maybe one day I’ll sit down to write my own.



  • At Sun Apr 12, 08:30:00 PM, Blogger Fajita said…

    Write your spiritual story, you fool.

    I was contemplating my own spritual story this morning."Faith Interupted" was my working title. Probably not going to be it, but it worked for me this morning.

    There is so much value in writing stories - even if only for the writer. But it almost always goes beyond that.

  • At Sun Apr 12, 09:11:00 PM, Blogger Mary Lou said…

    Because you have the talent to do this, you should write your own story. I've written bits and pieces of "my story", but somehow I've not found the words convey how it really is/was. I think you would write yours wonderfully.

  • At Sun Apr 12, 09:12:00 PM, Blogger Kelly said…

    I would love to read your story, and I'm positive many others would as well. Great recap on the book. You provide many of the books for my "to read" list...thanks!

  • At Mon Apr 13, 08:21:00 AM, Blogger WinSpin said…

    Allow me not to embarrass you with Daddy comments but this one I must share...

    The first statement I can recall your making is when our family visited Bottomless Lakes State Park just outside of Roswell.

    You were 5 years old. I lifted you so that you could get a better view of the beautiful green water in one of the lakes.

    I asked you what you thought about all the beauty.

    You replied, "God sure did do a good job."

    Mom and I were blown away with your observation.

    But my point is that ever since then we have observed your life from a different perspective.

    You always were seeking God and even in those tough years of your life, you persevered.

    So write your will be a beautiful and powerful story. You are more than qualified and the Spirit will continue to lead you.

    When I think of you and the paths you have travelled, there is but one thought to convey:

    "God sure did do a good job."

  • At Mon Apr 13, 11:35:00 AM, Blogger Lois said…

    you know I think you write the best human interest stories ever. but i know you could write beautifully of your spiritual journey. your father expresses himself very well also. His message to you is so understanding and supportive. It is a treasure. Oh that more of us would search our souls to see why we are the way we are and why God is the way He is. Go for it my dear friend.

  • At Mon Apr 13, 06:29:00 PM, Blogger Nellie said…

    Two words for you: Write It!!

  • At Thu Apr 16, 07:54:00 AM, Blogger preacherman said…

    It is in stories and testimonies that we see other's point of views and can also be a great way to grow in faith as well. Thank you for this post. Keep up the great work sis!

  • At Thu Apr 16, 10:11:00 AM, Blogger Sarah said…

    Okay, well your dad's comment makes me cry...

    Indeed. Write the story. I have started writing for the paper and I, too, LOVE to hear people's stories. I never do them justice in my paltry 700 words, but it blesses me immensely to hear them.

    I started this year with a commitment to write 100 words a day. For a while, it was toward 1 specific thing. You could write 100 words a day towards your spiritual story and more on days you have more time.

    We all need to record our stories. I'm cheering you on!

  • At Thu Apr 16, 08:08:00 PM, Anonymous Ardelle said…

    I think that almost indescribable value of hearing people's stories is why I'm a counselor. It's a new career for me, and I go into a counseling session or group session with that same sense of trepidation that you described in writing people's stories down -- can I hear their story well? Let them put words to it in that space? Give it the attention it deserves? Help them sift through it and see the sacredness (is that a word?)? Sometimes watching people file up for communion, each one kneeling at the altar rail and reaching out for the Bread & Wine -- the Body & Blood of Christ -- I get that same sense of curiosity about each of those lives & what brings them to that altar rail, that you described in Compline. Some I know a bit about and others I don't ... but it's a really beautiful way of watching, nosy or not! Happy Easter!!

  • At Thu Apr 16, 08:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    please never quit blogging

  • At Sat Apr 18, 07:49:00 AM, Blogger Keith Brenton said…

    Where can I order an advance copy?

  • At Mon Apr 20, 12:15:00 PM, Anonymous Scott F said…

    Deana, you simply MUST do it!


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