At the beginning of this year, my wife wrote one of the most honest things I've read in a long time. She put "god" and "fucking bastard" closer to each other than most of us are comfortable with, flinging words with a reckless bravery known only by the free (and the desperate).
And before she published those uncomfortable words, she asked: "Do I need to censor this? You know, because you're a Christian writer and I'm your wife?"
I don't want to be a Christian writer, if it means writing from the heart and then hitting backspace until it feels safe again. I don't want to be a Christian writer, if it means pretending that faith is something other than what it is -- clumsy, fragile, sometimes ugly.
I don't want to be a Christian writer if it means that we need to act like we have all our shit together. Because the truth is, we don't.
My wife doesn't capitalize "god" these days. I have no idea what I believe at least half the time, and I'm afraid to write about it because I know I'll look back on it in a few months and realize I was wrong.
I say swear words sometimes, even when I pray. Especially when I pray.
I have all this baggage about the Bible and the Church, but I believe desperately, deeply in Jesus and His Kingdom. (Except for when I don't.)
We don't have our shit together. Not at all.
"Be an example!" they said. "Don't let your freedom in Christ lead others astray!"
That's what they said, but what they meant was, "Act like you have your shit together, so that other people will act like they have their shit together too."
This, my friends, is not godliness. This is the worst sort of hypocrisy.
"Integrity means being the same person in private that you are in public," they said. And so for years I tried to become in private the person that I wanted to be in public.
I believe in sanctification. I believe in self-control. I believe in leading by example. But I don't believe that there's any value in acting like I'm any better than I am.
The truth is, nobody has their shit together. We all carry swear words and baggage and doubts in our hearts, even if they never reach our lips. Yet, here we are pretending to be better than we are, in hopes that somebody else will be inspired to be better than they are. This just leaves us feeling that we're the only ones who fail, who doubt, who swear at God.
The truth is, faith is a mess. Sometimes there's more despair than hope. Sometimes we're disappointed with God. Sometimes we're disappointed with ourselves. Sometimes there's nothing left to say but swear words. I don't know if that's good, or right. It just is.
But we play games, dancing with masks on. Trying to live up to each others' expectations of what it means to be a "good Christian". Pretending. Pretending. Pretending. All terribly alone.
Do I need to censor this, because I'm a Christian writer? No. A thousand times no. If that's what it means to be a "Christian writer", count me out. I'm done with writing from the heart and then hitting backspace until it feels safe again.
I'm not going to sit here and talk like I've arrived, like I don't feel completely lost sometimes, like every day isn't a journey. But I'm stumbling in the direction of God, I think. I hope.
This essay originally appeared at Redemption Pictures.