Christianity Today has announced its 2015 Books Awards, and so many wonderful books have been commended, including works of fiction (Lila by Marilynne Robinson) and biography (Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer). What’s In a Phrase? Pausing Where Scripture Gives You Pause by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre won the Spirituality Category, and I’m especially looking forward to reading this book. Also, I’ve heard great things about The Measure of Success: Uncovering the Biblical Perspective on Women, Work, and the Home, which won the Award of Merit in the Her.meneutics category. Of course there are great books that didn’t make the list, too. I’ve written about two of them here and here.
And then there’s this: Teach Us to Want won 2015 Book of the Year.
The news is simultaneously thrilling and terrifying.
In June of this year, before the book released, I sought out the wisdom of a spiritual director in the midst of my churning fears: what would criticism of the book do to me? And praise?
I came to realize this: the criticism of my writing would always be inordinately devastating – and the praise, unless it were unequivocal, insufficient. This was true because I was a sinner.
This is true because I am a sinner.
But the gospel reminds me that my life is hidden with Christ in God. He took the shame I fear. And the glory I crave? That belongs to him, too.
In light of the announcement, I thought it would be fun to post a start to a prologue I drafted in the early stages of Teach Us to Want. I hope it reminds each of us that, while desire can throb with fear, God is ready to form us by the risks we take in and for and to him.
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“This is your life. You are a Seminole alligator wrestler. Half naked, with your two bare hands, you hold and fight a sentence’s head while its tail tries to knock you over.”
⎯Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
If writing is like alligator wrestling, you’re never up for the bloody guts of it all. Not if your life is like mine. I’m the mother of five reasonably small people. Small, yes, but their force of insistence and perpetual need of me cannot and will not be put off.
As it turns out, however, books (or those you intend to write) are themselves petulant children. Belligerent alligators. Snapping at your heels when your hands are in the soapsuds. Cornering you as you flip pancakes and sort socks. Always, at the most inopportune moments, demanding you pay them some attention.
What mother has the energy for alligators? I write on mornings when the twins attend preschool, in the afternoons when the house quiets during naptime. But inevitably, the hour nears when the front door will be thrown open, backpacks and shoes flung wildly in every direction. There will be more feral demands: homework, dinner, laundry, and lunch boxes.
I wonder if it’s possible write a book and still be fully present to my family.
I wonder if it’s possible to fix words to a page and not be transfixed by my own voice.
I wonder if it’s possible to write a book when I know little more than my own questions.
These are the kinds of fears that threaten to tie my hands.
But maybe I can remember that a better Book has been written, that a Word has been made flesh.
Jesus, it’s You I love and honor here in these pages.