This post is part of Addie Zierman’s synchroblog to celebrate the release of her book “When We Were on Fire”:
“…a funny, heartbreaking story of untangling oneself from cliché in search of a faith worth embracing. It’s a story for anyone who has ever felt alone in a crowded church. For the cynic. The doubter. The former Jesus Freak struggling with the complexity of life.”
I haven’t read the book yet, but I just know from reading the advanced reviews that I am going to love it, and it is next on my list!
So, I am adding my voice to this synchroblog, in hope that – in Addie’s words – we would come together in “celebration of… the complex, hard, beautiful journey of faith…. that seeing others’ stories pop up here makes you feel a little less alone. A little less crazy and a bit more understood.”
Writing the following post was incredibly easy, but the tears fell as I typed away, as I recalled certain feelings I hadn’t thought about in so, so long. For my readers who aren’t acquainted with the finer points of growing up in a Pentecostal church in the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s, you might not resonate much with this post, but to go into (even brief) explanations of the jargon and ‘Christianese’ you might encounter below would take too long, so please feel free to leave questions and comments, and my fellow ‘Penties’ might oblige to help with the answers. If you would like to find your way to more stories, please follow the link to the synchroblog by clicking on the image at the end of the post.
When we were on fire it was easy, even though we thought we were walking the narrow road.
We were young and pure, and our way was the right way, and everyone else was missing out. The Catholics and Baptists and Presbyterians – they were stagnating.
We… WE had The Spirit.
We had The Interpretation and The Anointing that was going to change the world.
It was easy because the answers were black and white. You were in or out. In the light or in the dark. There were no enchanting, mystical twilights, in those days. Only the promise of great, bright things on the horizon.
We were the Daniel Generation, the David Generation, the Esther Generation. We existed only in three-part sermons, alliterative dot points, prayer walks and fire tunnels. We screwed our eyes shut and thrust our hands into the air, hoping that maybe this time we’d feel something. We knew that being ‘on fire’ was a physical compulsion to do His will, to heal the sick and save the lost. We knew that everyone else felt it but us.
We went home to our journals and poured our hearts between the pages, drenching in ink-blue blood those crisp white sheets with the straight black lines and we questioned and pleaded with the One who was so far out there…
And then we enclosed those shameful thoughts between thick impenetrable covers and slept on a pillow drenched with bitter hope.
Maybe sometimes we’d confide with a prayer partner or an accountability group. We would discuss in hushed tones how we felt distant and how we doubted our calling. For a brief moment there was a breath of sweet cool air. And then that heavy curtain fell with a thud, enclosing us once again in that close, stifling humidity, dense with disappointment. We were encouraged to press in – though no one could ever really explain what that meant, aside from pray more, worship more, serve more, do more, be more.
Exhausted, we faltered… flickered.
Then, there… when all was still and quiet, as adolescents – in hushed awe – we sat in scattered beanbags, dim-lit by lamps in corners. When hearts broke and friends gathered. When questions were asked and tears were shed and burning fears were dwarfed by common hope. Those were the times the curtain lifted, when the gusts came in and all but extinguished fickle flames, it was then we gathered as coals, totally dependent on each others heat and radiance.
I still believe in great things, but I don’t believe they’re coming from a person on a platform, or from between the covers of a new album. I believe they are coming from beneath; growing out of the earth, under a good layer of crap and decay; crumbling into a rich, full, pungent soil; forming as sweet, young shoots of hope; blossoming into full flower in the light and heat of the sun.
We were on fire once, but the fire has given way to slow-burning coals. We are deep and quiet. We won’t be extinguished in a hurry. We simmer with all our doubts and questions and steadfastness and faith that comes with not having the answers. We are utterly aglow in the tension of sincerely searching for truth while learning to be at rest with the Mystery, and the Author of Peace.
Do you have a similar story? I would love to hear it, wherever you are at on your journey. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing in the comments, you can always send me a private message via the Facebook page.