Permission

I remember the kitchen of the Potter’s House, all natural wood cabinets and a tiled floor, with a white countertop of that cutting-board material right in front of the angled freezer where they kept fresh fruit. Several blenders always waited for smoothies or frozen coffee drinks, and the giant refrigerator/freezer hummed quietly, filled with ice cream and more fruit. The bar was of a dark material with several oak stools beneath, and a college student generally stood on the other side to take orders or brew espresso for mixed drinks. A stack of IOUs sat beside the cash register, left by those who didn’t have any money but who weren’t turned away, and a similar stack of textbooks rested nearby where weary students had left them so they could play some Chinese Checkers or Chess.

And there would be Samson, that bald, powerfully built black man, dancing in the middle of the kitchen with his arms raised, singing to Jesus as if only the two of them were around. “Lord, yes!” he’d yell, his feet pounding back and forth as he’d swing blenders, scoop fruit, pour flavoured syrup, exclaiming with love when anyone called his name. Samson was almost always worshiping, and I swear his energetic smile powered the lights of that little house.

It was watching him worship the Lord, dancing like nobody was watching, arms raised in the middle of a coffee shop kitchen, dark skin gleaming with sweat while taut biceps strained at the tight shirts he always wore, that I found the grace to worship God. In Samson’s boldness I was given permission to serve God with all my heart, all my mind, all my soul, and all my strength. I got a glimpse of what it would be like to live free and honestly before my God, and it was good. I wanted that, I wanted it so badly, I just needed to figure out how to get there. Learning from Samson, it seemed appropriate to begin by dancing.

When I worship God, I’ve got to move my feet. When I pray, I’ve got to sway. I can’t hear a beat without dancing a bit to it, and I know that I’ve really been connecting with Jesus only when I’m sore, sweaty, and filled to overflowing with joy. This is what I have learned from Samson.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

-Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love, 1992

Keep On Walking

I’m going to start posting first drafts more often here as I’m developing pieces, so get used to that I guess. I’ll preface them with something like this to let you know. Expect to see more bits from stories and other things I’m working on.

I’m a bit embarrassed about my earlier attempts at writing, and a similar feeling will likely overtake an older, wiser me as he looks back at this piece. I recall once taking a poem into the Potter’s House, a Christian coffee shop just east of the college campus where I used to live, and ask if I could post it there. It was a theologically inspired piece, something about struggling to do the right thing and fighting against the evil inside us, and it wasn’t all that good. I knew at the time that it was amateurish at best, but I had something I needed to say and that was the best I could do.

Too often we are afraid to speak for fear of our inadequacy. We’re afraid we won’t sound eloquent enough, or that we can’t do the story justice, or that people will either make fun of or ignore us. We don’t want to waste our stories on our poor skills, so we remain silent, hoping for a time when we can communicate adequately.

But there is no shame in our offerings, be they ever childish.

My freshman year of college it was recommended that I read The Art of Writing by William Strunk Jr. Not being a particularly good student, I only skimmed the book, but one line leapt out at me and remains lodged in the fore of my brain. “Never compound ignorance with inaudibility,” Strunk wrote, and I don’t mean to. I will offer the best I can at this time, and hope that it’s enough. I’ll keep writing, and what I have to offer in ten years will be better, the best I can at that time, but it still won’t be as good as I will be in twenty years.

We only have so much time on this earth to speak and share with others. I am not inadequate if my communication fails to meet my standards of eloquence and clarity. Inadequacy in this case stems only from silence. As long as I am writing, I am winning.