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.
Labels: Anne Rice