“It’s up to you, but I think we should consider killing _________ [insert character name].”
I was reminded today of a phone call I had with my editor some time back. She’d received my manuscript and in reading it through, had that key suggestion for our book.
Without even thinking, I chimed in: “Yes — Good! Let’s kill them. I’ll get started on that right away.” I jotted the plot change in my notebook. A second later, I looked up and realized very quickly that:
1) I was in a quiet coffee shop.
2) I’d shouted my answer out loud.
3) People were now staring and at least one girl edged her chair away from my table.
and 4) You should never sound that gleeful when a character’s demise is at hand!
Oh, the life of a writer…
I assure you I was not excited to kill that character. (That would just have been heartless.) And I’m not an undercover Converse-sneakers-wearing assassin masquerading as a Starbucks-drinking writer. I’m a normal gal. My mind wanders and I write those imaginings down for others to read. It’s what I love to do. But there’s vulnerability in this writing life that I hadn’t realized in the beginning– I’m not ready for everyone to see what’s behind the curtain of this author. (Certainly not for the other folks sitting in the coffee shop with me. They were clearly not ready to hear about how I was going to enjoy killing someone.)
Don’t we all do that? We show our perfected selves to the world. Facebook and Twitter only get the best angles on our photographs. We’ll probably update our social media status when our kid scores five goals on the field. (But what about the game where he scores none, but the team worked together and knelt in prayer at the end?) And what about those high school reunions? I’m probably going to feel like I should talk more about myself than listening to others. Over and over again, we’re pulling curtains when what we should be doing is letting people in. Inviting them to our table and ordering a coffee for one more.
Why in the world is this so difficult?
Here’s the truth: it’s all about vulnerability.
- Am I willing to tell the world that I don’t have it all together?
- Am I ready to post a photo or a status message that shows who I really am?
- Am I able to say: “I’m struggling today. I’m a child of God and YES — I’m still struggling.”
- Am I going to tell the truth that Jesus carries me? That I’m not perfect but flawed. And not strong, but weak without Him? That my bank account, accomplishments, degrees, success, shining photos on Facebook and telephone conversations in a coffee shop mean nothing if I don’t have Him?
Book written. Curtain drawn.
Life struggle? Curtain drawn.
I’m doubting. Not trusting God with everything. Maybe I’m sick or grieving or discouraged or the bills just keep coming… Curtain after curtain drawn.
I’m not saying you have to air your dirty laundry in public. (Please don’t shout about killing characters in a coffee shop. It’s just not polite.) But I am saying that scripture – and the nature of our gracious, strong, loving and selfless Savior – will entreat us to live our lives with passion enough to be real with ourselves and others. To take up our cross daily. To follow Him with our whole selves – without drawing curtain after curtain to block our eyes from locking with His.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
The next time I’m in one of life’s coffee shops, I’m going to change it up a little. I’m going to order coffee for two.
I’m going to invite others in.
I’ll pull back the curtain — and so help me, be real. And be okay with being vulnerable. And able to ask for prayer when I need the covering. And yes, willing to lay down my pride enough to accept the outstretched arms of those who aren’t edging away from the table because I’m showing the depth of my character flaws. In fact, there needs to be some character killing going on! Killing of pride. Of the focus on self. Of the unwillingness to see beauty in the imperfections of this life.
If you see me in a coffee shop, I hope you stop by to say hello. We’ll order a coffee for two. We’ll smile. And laugh. And be okay with being real. We’ll order a cup of it and pull back our curtains together.
(And please… If you do stop by, bring your story suggestions with you. I’m all ears.)
In His love,