Friday, October 18, 2013

A Mix of Rain and Fire

when we were on fire synchroblog


I spent a lot of my teenage life wishing I didn't have to be "different." I wanted to acquire the fire but I wasn't really allowed. Yes, I was on the inside with the label Christian, but I was still on the outside looking in at people being cool and popular for Jesus. I was the girl with crooked teeth, hiding behind a piano.

It’s a hard knock being unseen most of your life. It’s the ones with the outer passion and beauty and bouncy ponytails that get picked. I had lost most of those things by Kindergarten.

“Well, you’re just different,” a youth leader told me, when I tried to assure her that even though I was homeschooled, I still had struggles the same as other teenagers. She didn't really see me. She didn’t recognize depression and loneliness. She didn’t suspect how close I had gotten to sliding off the edge of the world.

Future note to everyone ever from now on: Never write off a teen as “different.” It’s like being bludgeoned with “I don’t care.”

I am good at building fires. I grew up with a woodstove for heating the home. I remember plenty of 6 a.m.’s of ice-cold pain in my feet and oversized flannel with slightly rolled sleeves comforting my chill-bump covered arms. I was skilled at using a frugal amount of starter materials: a bit of cardboard smeared with bacon grease, a few criss-crossed twigs, some bark pulled away from the logs. Add a couple of good sized splintered wood and strike the match. I could get our house up to a cozy 80 degrees before mid-morning and we’d have to open the back door.

I could build a decent fire to warm the house, but my heart was a smoldering wick.

“Light before heat.”

My dad said that a lot. He meant that there could be a display of emotions but no real depth behind it. I knew he was right, but I still wished I could have found out for myself instead of feeling forbidden from it. Those girls coming back from Teen Mania(c) trips were a lot happier than I had ever been. Oh, that one girl, she WAS fire incarnate, and her mother worshiped her, and oh, I just wanted a little bit of her spotlight because I was good at the same things she was. I just wasn’t a good salesman. Or pretty enough.

The “fitting in” with the youth group thing was impossible. I was the rain on their fire. I once extended hospitality to another teen whose mom was out of town temporarily. She was kind but I’m pretty sure I freaked her out. Note to self: talking about the profound impact on you after your grandfather’s passing does not make for proper small talk. I tried too hard; at least she was gracious. And then she got on with her life. I went back to being unseen.*

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There’s this certain special thing about young people. The grown-ups leave it alone because it reminds them of being that age. It’s that restless, change-the-world spirit that hasn’t gotten a good dose of reality yet. There’s all that chemistry barely kept in check that makes the elders nod and smile and let it be. Preserve the fire and the fight in them; allow the unquenchable ambition. They’re gonna get hurt and altered forever but they don’t know it yet, like a woman expecting her first child, and who’s going to say anything because maybe for the first time things can be better for the next generation? So they leave us to write our own stories and nature runs its course and there is no taming that wildfire.

I wish the elder folks had invested more storytelling in us. As a way of life. I wish I knew their own coming-of-age tales. I wish we had talked long and hard about the realities. I wish I had listened. I wish we hadn't been sheltered from the whole big deal. I wish we could all have learned to tell the truth to ourselves, even when it's yucky.

And I’m starting to have hope that now it really is different. People are coming forward. We’re telling our stories. With or without shame, just getting it out. Nostalgia, tears, regrets, resolutions all swirl together in a jumble of memories and memoirs. Honesty and authenticity; a mix of rain and fire.

I can spend all my time hanging out in the shoulda-been. The smoke of a thousand hushed fires can smother if I let it: If only I had made better choices. Different choices. If I could just go back and fix things. See things bigger-picture view.

But I have to move forward, noting the struggle, but not dwelling in it. The fire has burned. The smoke is clearing. We can surely build again; this time with a little more awareness and as much love as we can muster. Because love is the fire that does not consume.

The cycle continues, and we will probably do more outrageous things in the name of Jesus. In a good way, please God. But let’s face our humanity, the parts we’re proud of and the parts we shrink from, and let ourselves be changed.

*What seemed like many years later, in my late teens/early twenties, I did find a welcoming group to mingle with. We didn't feel the need to God-talk all the time. We could just be ourselves. And that was a gift.

Linking up with Addie Zierman's When We Were On Fire synchroblog. I have not read the book yet but she's one of those writers worth taking a "leap of faith" like that. Check out the link to her sample chapters in the note at the bottom of her post.

9 comments:

  1. " I wish we hadn't been sheltered from the whole big deal. I wish we could have all learned to tell the truth to ourselves, even when it's yucky." YES. Me, too! Well done.

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  2. Thank you, Suzanne. It's a hard subject to approach without making it look like a blame game, and I think that is why a lot of adults in the church have a hard time passing on their stories. If we could be all about grace instead of being all about pressure to never "mess up," (whatever the situational definition of that is,) right? Pressing on in hope. :)

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  3. .......Because love is the fire that does not consume." I love the way you put that! I wish we had done more story telling, too, but it's not too late. We have a whole generation of grandchildren who need stories from the adults in their lives! Yes, we do need to "face our humanity, the parts we're proud of and the parts we shrink from, and let ourselves be changed." I love you! Keep writing! God is definitely using you to touch people!

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  4. Thank you. You're always so encouraging. I love you, too. :)

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  5. Thank you for sharing your bittersweet story. I love the perspective you brought around the tension between letting teens have their fire, but wishing that adults had been more 'real'. I am to be that for the teens in my life - it's a fine line to walk. I am sharing your story with my readers this morning via my FB page. Thanks again.
    Bree.

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  6. Thank you, Bree. I've been wondering about that fine line. I won't have a teen for another 5 years and already I'm wondering about my stories and what to tell. How much? When is the right moment? Will it seem like rain on their fire? etc. Invoking grace and wisdom for us all.
    Thank you for sharing this. :)

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  7. Thank you so much for taking the leap and posting this Jamie. It's beautiful. I resonated with so much of it...particularly this desire for older generations to SHARE what it's really like. To help us by not insinuating that fire can or should last...but that life is hard. Yes. So glad you wrote this. Thankful for you.

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  8. Thank you, Addie. Your courage and vulnerability to write this book are amazing. So many are being touched by your story. Bless you.

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  9. Jamie,

    When I saw that you participated in Addie’s synchroblog I thought I should invite you to participate in a monthly synchroblog that I am a part of.

    It’s made up of a home-grown group of bloggers who like to write on topics of post-modern faith & life. This group is open to anyone who is interested in participating. We value respectful conversation and dialogue while honoring our differences. We share links & try to learn from each other.

    Some of the people that originally participated in the synchroblog no longer blog and I am trying to reach out to people like you who are currently passionate about blogging in order to keep our monthly synchroblog relevant and vital.

    If you are interested in joining us you can join the facebook group and receive monthly invitations to the synchroblog. Here is that link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/114506961937378/

    And you can find our website (which you can subscribe to if you want to receive an email when we post the monthly theme announcement/invitation) here: http://synchroblog.wordpress.com/

    (You can see all of the themes that we have covered in the past on our website in order to get an idea of what we do)

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