I was recently asked to give a talk with a reading group through our church about my book, Prayers from the Valley. They are going to be reading it soon and in February I am supposed to go speak about it. I have struggled with that. What should I talk about that I haven’t already said in the book? For me, writing the book was spiritually cleansing and maybe a form of therapy. I was recently reading a website post from Steve Laube a literary agent whom I have sent purposed books in the past.
In the article, he talks about how books about sick kids or their parents are often not published because those books are so common. Many people write books after such experiences and if every one of them was published by a major publishing company, then the market would be flooded. This makes sense. Basically, if you aren’t already established as an author, have a large reading base, or are famous, that form of a book just won’t sell well. It also makes sense why my book was (kindly) rejected by his firm.
However, in that article, he also said that you should write the book anyway. Specifically for the reason’s I listed above. For those of us who write, writing is a way to process life. Be it through poetry (not me, hahaha), fiction, non-fiction, or just a journal, the process of placing words on a page creates a meaningful understanding of the life and ideas presented. In my book, I needed to process the spiritual implications that I don’t have everything figured out. That I am not the one in control. That God is NEEDED in my life. Basically, I am vulnerable and still in need of God.
The other day in church, I felt the spiritual need to stand up and testify to the congregation. I told them, that I wanted to tell them what I was thankful for. What I said, in short, was that I was thankful for our church for serving the church community and the community at large in South Charleston, WV. Specifically, I am thinking about the ways in which our church becomes “Jesus with skin on.” I have looked, but I can’t find where that phrase comes from. I know it’s a reference to John 1, where it says, “he became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” But other than that, I’m still not sure. However, my church does this well.
Just over the course of the last two years, in our church and many other places, there has been extreme loss and pain. We nearly lost Katarina and many in our church and many connected to our church did lose their lives. Each time, the family of God stood up and entered into life with those still here. They prayed, they loved, and they were there. I am thankful for the community of God that is Jesus with skin on for those who need Jesus.
Over the last two years, I have learned that I need Jesus, not just as my spiritual heavenly father, but I need Him in the form of other believers. I need that Jesus with skin on, to enter into my life and hold me at times. Realizing this, I have found myself taking on that role as well. Looking for ways to be Jesus with skin on for others. How can I hold the lost and lonely? How can I enter into life and be with the hurting and the hateful? Sometimes I find myself frustrated with someone or feeling betrayed and I suddenly think, how can I show this person love? How can I be Jesus with skin on for this person?
Am I vulnerable? Yes, absolutely yes. Am I frail? I am. Does that position me to be vulnerable to others’ pain? Yes, thankfully, yes.
D. Michl Lowe