Why I’m Not Voting for Donald Trump

I’ve had several people ask me how I’ll be voting this November, and when I’ve said that I’m likely to write-in a candidate, I’ve been met with varying responses. After trying to sum up my objections to voting for the current Republican candidate in several conversations, I’ve attempted below to highlight the overarching reasons for my decision. I should note that this is not an endorsement of Hillary Clinton, nor is it meant to bash those who thoughtfully and prayerfully decide to vote for Donald Trump. This is merely my attempt to explain my perspective.
1. Words Matter
One of the most common arguments that I’ve heard in support of Donald Trump is that his vitriolic and alienating speeches are all bravado, mere rhetoric that will be toned down once he sets foot in the Oval Office. We can argue about whether or not that’s a reasonable assumption to make, but I would take one step even further back and assert that his rhetoric alone provides sufficient reason not to vote for him. Our culture has long flung words around without any concern for their long-term legitimacy (see “love,” “like,” “amazing,” “hate,” and “tolerance” as examples), and Trump has capitalized on this irresponsible language use for the purpose of demonizing and diminishing others. Scripture teaches that the words of the mouth are the overflow of the heart, and so when Trump denigrates peaceful Muslims, evaluates a women’s value based on her body, and manipulates Scripture to suit his political purposes, we are getting a glimpse at his heart. Of course, a person does not have to be an evangelical Christian to be president, and such a litmus test would run absolutely contrary to our Constitution. However, a person seeking the highest office in the land should be one who treats all people, including women, Muslims, and screaming babies, with dignity and respect. On a practical note, rhetoric definitely matters when looking for political allies to promote particular policies. If Trump continues his war of words against members of both the Democratic and Republican parties, he will find himself positioned very poorly to bring about the kinds of long-term change that he promises. Finally, good ideas cloaked in demagoguery and hate will not change hearts. I’m sure even the most ardent Trump supporter would agree that what America really needs is for individual hearts to be softened toward Christ and toward loving others, rather than a litany of laws that will fix our moral issues at the surface without dealing with the root of the problem. Donald Trump’s method is so intertwined with his message, his few good policies so bound up in fear and hate, that history will not be able to separate the two. Conservatism will be linked to his presidency, and as a result, conservatives will lose credibility and a voice at the table for much longer than a Supreme Court term.
2. Supporting “Life-Honoring” Policies Extends Further than the Abortion Debate
Many Trump supporters I know have held out the Supreme Court as their linchpin argument, stating that Trump is more likely to appoint justices that will rule in favor of the unborn. This may be true, although I have problems with anyone claiming that Trump himself is pro-life. From historical statements in support of abortion, to more recent statements endorsing the work of Planned Parenthood and asserting that Roe v. Wade should stay in place, Mr. Trump is no true defender of the unborn and is saying whatever he needs to say in order to be elected. But that isn’t even my main point here. Those within the pro-life movement are rightly focused on the incredible tragedy of abortion, which is a modern-day holocaust in our nation and abroad. To ask them to encompass and strategically advocate for all “pro-life” policies (like supporting refugees and victims of domestic abuse) would be like complaining that the American Cancer Society isn’t doing enough to support the victims of heart disease. Being targeted in your efforts is not a bad thing. However, as voters, we have a slightly different obligation. We are tasked with being holistic, with looking at all of a candidate’s policies to determine whether they are truly pro-life. Mr. Trump has stated that he will enforce various regulations on peaceful, lawfully immigrated Muslims in our country, hearkening back to the Japanese internment camps of FDR’s administration, which are now remembered with disgust and disavowal. Mr. Trump has also stated that he has no problem killing the innocent women and children who had the misfortune of being born into (or sold into) a family with a terrorist in it, as a strategic measure against these terrorists. I could go on with examples, but these few indicate to me that Mr. Trump is not “pro-life.” He does not see each individual as being made in the image of God, and certainly does not refer to them as such (see point 1 on language use). He is willing to restrict the liberties and end the lives of innocent people because he is more interested in achieving his fear-driven political agenda than in respecting the Constitutional protections of religious liberty and human life. So, when you say you want to vote solely based on “pro-life issues,” watch Trump’s speeches and ask yourself whether he is actually pro-life.
3. God Uses Small Acts of Faithfulness to Achieve the Impossible
There is an unprecedented sense of fear in this election, and it’s not all without warrant. Over the past year, we have witnessed unspeakable violence, large-scale attacks on our country and its allies, a decline in religious liberty, heightened racial tension, and perhaps an all-time low in our ability to communicate civilly. However, a vote rooted in fear is not a vote based on Scripture. We have reason to mourn, lament, and cry out to God, given the state of our world, but we never have reason to fear. Christ has already won the victory, and so now each day is about living in that victory and trying to make choices that will honor Him. It would have been the more practical, tactical, and fear-motivated decision for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to bow down before Nebuchadnezzar, a small price to pay for their long-term influence over the city. It would have made more sense for David to recruit an army of men (or at least wield a better weapon) before heading out to face Goliath. And yet, we don’t look back on these stories (or even the stories of the martyrs, who “lost everything” in their attempts to honor God) and think: “What unsophisticated, culturally illiterate fools!” Instead, we consistently see God endorsing the principled stands of His children against evil rulers and other oppressors. Even if the evil wins out in the temporary (no matter the side), my soul is secure in the knowledge that God is in control, and so I don’t have to feel guilt or worry in casting my vote “against Goliath or Nebuchadnezzar.” I can do what I believe is right, and trust God with the results.
A Final Note On Voting Your Conscience:
Even if you’re still committed to voting for Mr. Trump, if you truly believe that he is the lesser of the two evils and that overall, his presidency will inflict less damage on our country, then you should be able to respect those who disagree with you. A vote for a third party candidate, a write-in vote, or a conscientious decision not to vote is not a “vote for Hillary,” it is a principled stand that Christians should admire, even if they choose differently. It is incredible to me that I’ve been taught from a young age to “do what you believe is right, no matter the consequences,” and yet when I explain that I believe voting for Trump is against my conscience, I am met with scorn and frustration. Somewhere, apparently, there is an invisible line at which pragmatic politics trumps personal principle, and I seem to have crossed it. As Christians, we should always defend rights of conscience, and as Americans, we should cherish these rights, as they are the very reason we left Europe in the first place—in search of a place where we could honor our consciences and worship God freely. So please, feel free to engage in political debate and argue the merits of your chosen candidate—but do not demean the principled and prayerful choice of a brother or sister as they seek to honor God with their vote.

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From These Rocks

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I still remember the first time I saw them. Jutting into the sky like natural skyscrapers on either side of the winding highway, their patterns swirling and dancing, capped off by glimpses of dark green far above. In Florida, the road lies down and stretches out ahead in an infinitely flattened landscape. Here, on my very first trip to Blue Ridge, GA, I was experiencing the wonder of rocks and hills and what I excitedly labeled “year-round Christmas trees.” This is not to even mention the peaceful quiet of snow, which I eagerly grabbed in fistfuls off of the dusty-white ground, only to quickly drop it with reddened and stinging hands. It was all a wonderful mystery to me, another world of perpetual majesty. Even when the snow melted and the magic of that winter faded, the rocks remained, framing the mountain roadways with their strength.

            Although I considered cost of tuition and professors and academic opportunities when deciding where to spend four years of my life, those rocks always lingered in my mind. When other schools offered me undergraduate assistantships and full tuition, Tennessee offered me the mountains. When committing four years to studying God and His world, why not do it at a place that reminds you so much of Him?

            Four years later, now, I should have become adjusted. I should be able to greet my horizon with the same kind of comfortable disinterest as the beaches I grew up on. And yet, there is still that particular bend in the road on Highway 27 that causes me to gasp aloud every time the view on the other side is revealed. The sunset melting into the ocean is God coming near to us, and in that I am comforted. The billowing heights of layered ground remind me that God is above and before, over and in all. But even these towers which testify to the muscle of the earth do not stand in solidarity, a single mass of thick and unbreakable land. Even these towers are made of rocks like the one that I hold in my hand. This rock juts approximately six inches in each direction, holding together resolutely and immutably, carrying the same regality and purpose as the slab from which it came.

            Even the skyscrapers of our cities come from the fallible fingers of an architect, a carpenter. So also the skyscrapers of my horizon come from fragments such as these. Even though I was surrounded by the comforting frame of a college community, my first year was filled with blows from rocks like this one, small chips digging away at my relationships and rendering a verdict on my heart when I didn’t even know a trial was underway. You see, mountains are only as tall as the rocks that join together to hold them high. These small stones can lay the foundation for glimpses of heaven or they can be thrown and bring forth destruction.

            They guard the mountain passes like the community of saints and angels, committing the safety of journeyers to the resoluteness, the steadfastness of their bond.

Justin Bieber’s DUI and Why I’m the Problem

This week, Facebook has been swirling with reactions to Justin Bieber’s DUI, and pictures of his charming (no really, it’s actually kind of charming) mug shot litter my feed. A couple of weeks ago (or just all of 2013) Miley Cyrus’ escapades were top news, and Christians went from stoically defending her as a product of “the culture” to offering thoughtful critiques of how Christians should engage with her story, how feminism was causing this, how a LACK of feminism was causing this, etc. All of them pointed to some external source of hedonism, some pervasive “out there” that could be blamed for our women-degrading and men-debasing society.

The students at my small Christian college were active in this discussion, offering both helpful critiques and vapid one-liners questioning Bieber’s sexual orientation. In the midst of this swirling debate, cars drive by my window with “Wrecking Ball” blaring from the stereo, girls pin pictures of Robert Downey Jr., One Direction, and Ryan Gosling on Pinterest boards entitled “The Beauty of Creation,” and I regularly host viewing parties for the ABC “reality” program “The Bachelor.”

We are often willing to accept that “culture” is the problem, as it sweeps up innocent child stars into its world of eating disorders, Photoshop, and assault charges.

We refuse, however, to admit that we are culture.

We have long been incredibly comfortable with buying the music, movies, and clothing of those we mock and criticize, posting a Relevant article detailing “The Problem With Taylor Swift” while blasting “I Knew You Were Trouble.” This culture that we dissociate ourselves from is made from our worship of it, our mental and financial investment in its wares, and our unwillingness to treat its icons as human beings.

We as Christians have decided that as long as we throw away any obvious allegiance to celebrities, our participation in their lives is acceptable. Our methods of throwing them away often include mockery (i.e. Justin Bieber is gay, Miley Cyrus is a whore), justification (i.e. Taylor Swift’s songs are often full of bitterness and revenge, but they talk about my life so well), and the concept of “guilty pleasures,” also known as our free passes to hold onto the things we really like.

Last night, on the latest episode of The Bachelor, Juan Pablo asked one of his candidates a scintillating question: “What do you want to do with your life?” The beautiful blonde science educator answered: “Well, you know, I just want to be, like, happy. I want a relationship that makes me happy, I want friends and a job that makes me happy. I don’t want to be one of those people that just gives and gives and gives and gets so tired out by that, you know?”

I laughed at this woman. I did not weep for her lack of purpose, I did not jump in outrage at the selfishness so permeating her answer, I did not pray for a greater joy to take hold of her heart.

I just wonder how we expect culture to shift when we rebuke it with our mouths and embrace it with our hearts. I wonder why we can pray for our friends and call out their gossip while simultaneously passing harsh judgment and “jokingly” wishing death upon an Image-Bearer we’ve never met.

This is not a call to retreat. I am not asking anyone to stop listening to secular music or quit their favorite show, but not because that would be too radical. No, the truly radical thing would be to press deep into the ideas presented in these mediums, letting our hearts be broken over those who have been so broken by their own selfishness, fame, and by us, their fans. Proverbs says that “one who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry, even what is bitter tastes sweet.” Let’s find ways to minister, encourage, pray for these hungry people whom we have left desperately alone. Their situations in many ways are not real, but their souls are.

On Silence (or, a Defense of the Extrovert)

            Some people say that extroverts are uncomfortable with being alone with their thoughts. As I sit, with only the soft whir of cool air venting into my room and the thin metronome of my roommate’s clock, I am not afraid. These visions that come to mind, of mapping my journey of law school applications, of color schemes for my wedding; this processing of where I am beginning and what I want to become; it is in fact a source of comfort.

            And now to address the at least perceived expectation. I feel that this exercise in silence is meant to draw out some mythical narrative that excites the moral imagination. Or, at the very least, direct my reader to a better understanding of God, their feelings, or some other profound mystery. Frankly, it makes me uncomfortable when people do that kind of inventing, alone with their thoughts. When someone comes to me with a grandiose vision of the transcendent that was discovered in a silent moment of reflection, it conjures up images of Eastern religion or substances not allowed on Bryan campus. Imagining castles and questioning one’s existence rings somewhat false to me, stretching for something in an attempt to show off mental muscle rather than deeply considering what is being grasped at the edge of the fingers. It is not so much that this thinking has no practical implications for living as that it has no mooring in the experiences of living.

            No, it seems to me that the transcendent was meant to be discovered in community. The breathing images of God that sit in our classes and walk our halls hold such potential for the metaphysical, no matter the extent of their experience with their Creator or their handle on the English language. Atkins states that great writers must live well in order to write well, and I would go further to say that thinking well is also the product of living well. This is why, when a man gets up to speak in chapel on his personal pontifications, he is met with blank stares and the occasional snicker. While he can attempt to talk about the success of the basketball teams in order to build comradery with them, he has never actually spoken to any of their players. This is why we have a litany of disgruntled posters of “Relevant” magazine articles, each determining to one-up the other with the newest hue of Christianity, and we simultaneously have so few stepping up to actually assume positions of Christian leadership. We have become self-centric and self-sufficient, determined that the conversation between our mind and heart can sum up the brokenness and resolve all tensions, without daring to go beyond ourselves.

            Silence is tempting today. I would rather sit alone and face what lies before me this week—a host of assignments and meetings and people. But these moments have served their purpose, and to continue on would be a disservice to those about whom this silence was concerned. This tinny thump of time on the wall reminds me of what has past, but it also calls me back. Back to the work of living.

On Sunflower Seeds, Culinary Gnosticism, and Chocolate Chocolate Moose Tracks

            There I was, surrounded by green. These were the fledging steps of my college experience, my lunch table representing the friends that I had quickly made and clung fast to. I was certain that if they spent a single meal without me, I would slip from their minds and be destined to the bowels of the cafeteria: the far right corner. That far right corner housed empty tables where one or two freshman sat in awkward silence, doomed to social oblivion. This would not be my fate. And yet, a greater social pressure arose: the salad. Each of seven plates delicately outlined the round cafeteria table with a plethora of leafy greens and, if one was feeling adventurous, sunflower seeds. Each of seven girls picked daintily at their salad, bemoaning their lack of appetite and casting what they thought were covert and longing glances at the ice cream bar. I stared at my plate. There was a smidgeon of green-the cooked broccoli on the hot line, and a few leaves of lettuce. But there was also pizza. Glorious pizza, covered in cheese and pepperoni and even some mushrooms! My cup matched the others at the table, translucent with the liquid that boasted no calories and the drink of choice amidst my friends. But another cup was off to the side, cradling the Chocolate Chocolate Moose Tracks Ice Cream which was a Friday special. Surely no one would notice. A girl stared at my plate with a kind of disbelief for a moment, and then wince-smiled at me: “Allison, I just love how confident you are about what you eat. You just don’t care what other people think of you.” Born and raised in a culture of fried okra and backhanded compliments, I was trained in my response to such a remark. I smiled and said thanks, inwardly kicking myself for even thinking that pizza could pass for a balanced meal.

            There developed that year among that table of girls what I labeled “The Second-Helping Pronouncement Syndrome.” It manifested itself when one girl made the brave decision to get seconds. Rather than face the condemning silence that such an action would inevitably incur, she offhandedly (and loudly) commented that she unfortunately hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch that day, and she’d only had two handfuls of cereal as a snack, so she might need to get a few more chickpeas on her salad. Everyone at the table gave the obligatory nod of approval and the girl left to obtain further nourishment, validated in her decision. This became an epidemic of constant excuses, from the number of miles run that day to the number of meals skipped in order to justify one’s hunger. Eventually I moved to a different table and a different way of thinking, where balance reigned over limitations, and Chocolate Chocolate Moose Tracks were welcomed with open arms of acceptance.

            Why can we wonder at a beautiful sunset, cry over an exquisite arrangement of a concerto, breathe in the enveloping hospitality of fall, and not exclaim over the freshness of a homemade pie, the comfort in a good bowl of macaroni and cheese, or the pleasure of that first bite of homemade bread? Why must we justify our excitement in taking in a good meal with good friends? We are a society of culinary Gnostics, determined to eat only that which performs a directly useful function in our bodies. Such a view in relationship to our other senses would lead to barren hymnals and scentless, color-less, awe-less, living. Let us embrace the marvel of nature, the beauty of art, and the joy of food.

On Arnold

This goes out to all of the beautiful ladies of Arnold Dorm.

There is ugliness and beauty, stark reality and glimpses of immortality in Arnold Dormitory, Bryan College, 721 Bryan Dr., Dayton, TN. I lived a relatively quiet life before taking up residence there three years ago; the sister of one brother and the inhabitant of a sleepy Southern town with more orange groves than people. My bedroom was a simple solace, framed by bookshelves and family pictures and rarely encroached upon by a visitor. While the overwhelmingly social extrovert in me enjoyed spending the majority of my time outside my room, the tiny sliver of introvert secretly cherished the precious moments of silence with the clock ticking and the bedcovers enveloping and the fresh breathing-in of stillness.

            Along came Arnold Hall, and with it, ninety-nine fellow roommates. Ninety-nine pairs of feet roaming from room to room in search of company, ninety-nine distractions from homework, ninety-nine voices clamoring and whispering at all hours of the night. The transition was overwhelming, especially when coupled with a difficult roommate relationship my freshman year.

            Since that initial breaking of the stillness, I have learned that peace is not just found in quiet, but can also be found amidst the dull roar of a 2am study party. Tranquility does not require solitude to exist, and the steady clicking of a roommate’s keyboard can elicit more security than hours alone with my clock could ever afford.

            But back to the beauty and ugliness. Swirling with the faded yellow and green patterns that make up the 70’s, Arnold’s interior ambiance leaves much to be desired. The nose’s initial encounter with Arnold usually causes a slight wrinkling and a low-breathed comment about mold and hospitals. Like the vestiges of a hoarder with a bad sense of taste, Arnold’s kitchen is filled with an assortment of unneeded utensils and sorely lacking in the basics of brownie pans and spatulas. My bathroom door has to be slammed in order to shut, my shower has been unceremoniously dumped on top of the old one so that mold is creeping around the edges, and the carpet has not been thoroughly cleaned since Nixon was president. Arnold is ugly.

            Down the hall comes the sweet smell of fresh cinnamon rolls, and with it a note of encouragement for the coming week. Though the carpets may be hardened and calloused by their years of service, the beds boast new residents and fresh sheets every year, and they hold four or five girls screaming with laughter, discussing their day in vivid detail. They can also support the fiercely loyal hug of two girls sharing hearts, chasing away hauntings of the past and running towards redemption. While the bathroom has the tacky fadedness of a has-been actress, the women who grace its mirror every morning possess defiant beauty that refuses to be defined by a pant size or a mascara brand. Arnold is beautiful.

            In the life beyond the stillness, laughter rings out and tears cannot hide and living is held accountable by ninety-nine distractions. Silence may be golden but sound is transcendent, the voicing of God’s image made manifest in His creation, ninety-nine souls. And I am the 100th. My voice rises to add to the clamor, not the clamor of dissonant brass sections and brash gossip, but the clamor of soft prayers and bellowing laughter and impromptu musicals. Amidst the dim lighting and dingy furnishings, these are true glimpses of immortality.

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On a Pen

            Is it possible to be both fiercely opinionated and terribly indecisive? If there lays a tension between the two then I am a permanent resident. I tend to speak with the forcefulness of a pen and the timidity of a pencil, adding endless caveats and disclaimers to robustly dogmatic statements.

            My parents couldn’t put their finger on it. I wasn’t a defiant child in the traditional sense-lazy August school days weren’t jolted awake by some catastrophic temper tantrum, and punishment was received with nary a quivering lip or a spiteful word. Well, if I’m being honest, punishment was only “received” in the sense that I calmly listened to the information given and calculated a point-by-point rebuttal to the argument.

            Every year in my town, we had a Christmas parade, revered with the same sort of awe as the Ice Cream Social that Anne was invited to attend within her first few weeks of staying at Green Gables. Alas, Anne was thought to have stolen Marilla’s brooch and I had definitely been on the computer after I was told to get off. Although Anne’s dismay at being banned from the social was legitimate, since Marilla had misplaced her own brooch, and my disgruntlement had no logical foundation, I viewed our causes as one, mourning with Anne over the injustice of being disallowed from attending what was sure to be the highlight of the social calendar. I carefully made my argument, practiced a few times in the mirror, and then went in with the same impassioned sense of justice of Esther (or so I thought), valiantly facing my heinous opponent and pummeling her judgment with my wisely crafted argumentation. My mother was no match for this finesse, and, purely borne of her own confusion in light of my articulate rebuttal, she allowed me to attend.

            So it is with the pen. Ink dries and cements thought in an emphatic statement that leaves no room for questioning. Inwardly quivering with the faint whisper of lead, I march forward and leave the inerasable thought on paper, daring anyone to question its authority. Like the crazy street-corner preacher who alienates more than he heals, I’d rather die with a hoarse voice than an unused one.

            But still it seems that pens are best used for copying. Perhaps it is ironic that I type such a strong statement and print it with ink, but the heart behind it is the same. Allow the thought to be written by pencil, edited with the wisdom of those above and before, scratched out in light of new experiences, and finally submitted with pen only when it has been scrutinized and deemed worthy of such eternality. Rather than reaching first for the pen and writing my life with a certainty that will inevitably be scratched out, edited, or rearranged, I must hold loosely to my writing instrument, recognizing that my Author wields the ultimate Pen.

On Study

Particularly. Engaging. Fascinated. Experiential. Commonality. The click, the insert, the system of using the same words for each discipline, changing the subject and feigning interest through a well-placed assertion of dumbfounded awe at the extent of the vast knowledge accrued through this assignment. Tests are much the same, with their systematic flashcards and spreadsheets, chanting dates and names to a rhythm that beats out a 95%, another A in the cog of the machine that leads me to the next academic plant, where I get another stamp of approval before being shipped off to the job market, shiny, polished, and brimming with promise.

I cannot remember the exact moment or even the rough timeline of when it became like this, it of course being the books full of the knowledge of all things, the anticipation of turning the first page causing my heart to swell with the wonder of all that could be understood in the world. If that was “it”, then “this” is the disillusion. I’ll never forget the story my friend who worked at Disney told me, the time when he went to grab lunch in the underground. You see, below the magical castle, the parades and fanfare, and the gasps of little girls at their first sight of Cinderella, lays a dark underbelly that houses the floats, the break-rooms—the fine-print business contract behind the shiny car that is Disney. My friend said that he was struck one day to walk down on his break to see Snow White, fully dressed in the yellows and blues and reds that make up our childhood wonder, puffing on a cigarette and cursing like, well, one of the coal miners in whose home she resides.

When did the magic of learning fade from my eyes? Was it the first time that I was assigned so much reading that I couldn’t possibly finish it all without…skimming? Skimming, the cowardly short-cut that slapped the author in the face and told him that his story wasn’t worth writing in its entirety. Perhaps it was the semester I stopped bringing books to read on my own time, because the last thing I wanted to do after reading, writing, breathing literature all day was curl up to a book at night.

Oh, I’ve had glimpses of glory since then. Did you know that ecosystems are symbiotic communities, lending and borrowing the butter and sugar of their lives like so many Southern neighbors? And have you heard about the method of understanding Scripture that weaves the person of Jesus into every fiber of the Old Testament, seeing him in every line of aged prophetic faces and verses? Or maybe you’ve read about how Faulkner turns the rumbling stammers of a handicapped man into a story that rings of transcendence? Oh these are the moments that transform the sterilized and clinical into the fiercely brave and daring.

Studying implies coming close to something, whether figuratively or literally. In my current state, that closeness implies a perfectionist attention to detail that leaves no room for error, scrunched and bleary eyes poring over exhausting amounts of information. Yearning for the awe-struck sense of magic, I choose instead the closeness of breathing in the flower’s scent rather than taking its measurements, the intense proximity of weeping over a novel rather than dissecting it. The closeness that stoops near enough to breathe life in.

On Writing

The inescapable fear is pretension. Every penned thought seems to reek of it; the words on the page screaming for an audience, touting their self-importance. I started a blog this summer, more for my own benefit than any desire of obtaining an audience, anything to get the clamoring ideas out of my head. Sometimes I like the idea of earth better than heaven and what in the heck is femininity and I have these moments where I’m sitting in the belly of fear and it’s too dark to see if anyone else is there with me. I’m sure you’ll pardon my run-on sentence, though you’re accustomed to a polished style that doesn’t require obstructions of grammatical justice to be creative. Who are you, by the way? I perpetually write for you, the “audience”, without having the faintest idea who you might be. Maybe you’re the sometimes slim shred of sanity I appeal to within myself. Maybe you’re the audience that I dream up in my grandiose visions of having the words that feed souls.

            Writing feels something like knowing God. The more you begin to grasp the subject, the further it slips away. People say that the more you know the less you realize you know, but these essayists I’m reading seem to just know. Know with precision which steps they take on the narrowest of roads, always coming full circle in a glorious revelation of transcendent truth. I feel like the ambling toddler along the path, finding treasures along the way but failing to understanding the importance of my own discoveries.

            It’s also something like worship, isn’t it? I’m going to ask you these questions, stare you right in the face with my words, since you, my audience, clearly exist. Let’s stop pretending that this is a mere self-reflection, written for a grade. We both know I want you to read this someday, find it in some dusty folder and coo over my awkward brilliance. Just like worship, where attempts at the deepest of connections are so often hampered by acute self-awareness, doubt, insecurity. Even the times where I feel that I’ve managed to get past the obstacle of my own self and simply write, I question my motives.

            There you go. I tried to strip every ounce of pretension from all of this, gutting my credibility with every self-deprecating disclaimer I could muster. Writing is not always like this, I should clarify. In wrestling with doubt, femininity, and insecurity through my blog, I have experienced genuine intellectual catharsis and even pride in some of my work. Aha! I think that’s it. The concept of being proud of something I’ve written seems so distasteful, a brash claim of authority with dubious grounds. After all, Belloc is quick to say that we cannot create anything, every possibility for thought already swirling in the vast pool of intellectual existence. The copyright for any idea has always been held by the Creator, which makes originality a vain pursuit.

            Here’s where I’m supposed to come full circle, and it’s easier than I thought it would be. The more I consider writing, I’m beginning to think that writing isn’t like God. It’s about God. It, along with every other facet of creation, is permeated by the story that He wrote into existence. Maybe, like in worship, when my heart is so attune to that story of justice and grace and all things good, I am freed from this obsession with my motivations and finally communicate Truth. I suppose it’s the difference between viewing myself as the source and viewing myself as the vehicle. It’s time to give up illusions of being the Author and just start transcribing.

To Summit Staff

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written a post, but I realized that the subjects of this one are the very reason for my absence. Every year I work as a staff member at Summit, which is a worldview conference for high school and college students. It is a physically grueling and emotionally exhausting process, one that makes for many half-opened eyelids at morning staff meetings and finds joy in sixteen minute naps in the oddest of places.

It is certainly not a job for the spiritually or emotionally weak, which probably accounts for the caliber of staff hired each year, who inspired me as I was reading The Four Loves at the beach this morning. C.S. Lewis writes the longest chapter in this essay on “Friendship-Love”, and as he described the “common vision” of dear friends, my mind was continually drawn back to my Summit staff companions.

“This is the kingliness of Friendship. We meet like sovereign princes of independent states, abroad, on neutral ground, freed from our contexts. This love (essentially) ignores not only our physical bodies but that whole embodiment which consists of our family, job, past and connections. It is an affair of disentangled, or stripped minds. Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.”

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Throughout my life, I have craved many things, but none more ardently than friendship. It seems to come easily to the “servant-hearted” types, who bond over behind-the-scenes sainthood and chair-stacking holiness. There is no bitterness toward these personalities, only the profound sense of loneliness that comes with being the life of the party. As a little girl, I tried to tell myself on the way to church or other events that I would, this time, be quiet and calm, enjoying the comradary of whispered secrets rather than the hollow ring of boisterous laughter. Within five minutes of this prayer-promise to myself, I was inevitably regaling a crowd with a joke or story, later sinking into shame as I realized that I wasn’t the “friend-getting” type.

It was at Summit that I realized that my “naked personality” was enough, finally finding people to cry with me as readily as they laughed with me. People let me in to the mysterious world of confidences, trusting a loud person with the quietest of hopes and sorrows.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival….Life-natural life, has no better gift to give. Who could have deserved it?”

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I did not need friends. Only Christ could make me whole and worthy, restoring my broken image of myself. These precious souls did not make me new, but they showed me that I was. They did not give me worth, but they showed me that I possessed it. Lewis always puts it best:

“The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others.”

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