It’s been a difficult spring for me. By “difficult,” I don’t mean fresh and exciting challenges that move a person into writing, creativity, and overcoming. I wish it was that kind of difficult. I love that kind of difficult. No, I mean the sort of difficult that makes you question whether you have anything worth saying at all (hence my not writing here at Patheos). I spent 2013-2015 in a state of oblivion, some call it “survival mode,” the term “Dark Night of the Soul” may also apply. Now I’m trying to pick up all the pieces. But the puzzle doesn’t go together the way it did before. I’m a different person. I’m older, weaker, a little less certain and a lot less patient. When I do get it all together, if I get it all together, it won’t look the same. Sometimes it’s tempting to think that if I retrace my old steps I’ll get right back to where I was five years ago when life made sense and I felt alive and everything had potential. I know that’s not the way it works. But I’m not sure if my heart does.
I was in need of a good book when The Soulmaking Room showed up on my doorstep. I didn’t order it. And I don’t remember joining the book club that sent it my way. But the very first page let me know that this book had something for me:
This book is for people who have lived through stuff. It’s for people who have carried big dreams but lately seem to find themselves mired in the ordinary business of living. Many of us have loved well – or loved poorly – and lost. We’ve had to look death in the eye more than once. Our tongues have encountered the metallic taste of failure.
Each line hits home.
I’ve lived through stuff. I’ve seen my mother waste away from her anorexia. I’ve seen her skeletal silhouette. I’ve seen how it destroyed her marriage and our family. I know the hurt and the fury and the anguish of it all. I don’t know if she can get better. I’ve carried big dreams. But I’ve failed them or quit on them or had them stripped away. I’m not a teacher anymore. I’m not on the independent wrestling scene. I’m not in the gym 4 days a week. I’m not working at the Boys and Girls Club. I’m not living in Christian community. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the chance to give these dreams another try. I’ve loved – sometimes well, most of the times not – and I’ve come to terms with the fact that nothing lasts, not family, not friendships, not relationships. Impermanence marks them all. I’ve had to look at death. I’ve seen the corpse of a childhood friend. I remember the last time I saw him alive, we played chess like old times and talked about recovery, 9 months before he died from an overdose. He was 27. I remember the brown September fields and the blue sky on the day we buried him in the ground. I remember stalks of corn blowing across the cemetery.
If you’re in a season of spiritual strength and awakening, if it feels like you’ve got it figured out, then it may not be the right time for this book. Grab a sticky note and write it down: The Soulmaking Room. You don’t need it now, but you will. If, however, you’re doing all you can just to survive, if it’s been too long since you’ve felt the love of God and if you’re having trouble coming to terms with your failures and losses and all of the hard change you’ve had to push through, then I think you’ll get something out of it. It won’t solve your problems (it didn’t solve mine). You may disagree with parts of it (I know I did). But you might get a little bit of that grace you so badly need.
In my next post, I’ll get a little deeper into the book and talk about my agreements and disagreements.
Thanks for reading.