“The sowing is behind; now is the time to reap. The run has been taken; now is the time to leap. Preparation has been made; now is the time for the venture of the work itself” is the way theologian Karl Barth describes midlife.
I have kept diaries and notebooks since I was twelve years old. Young adult fiction writer Madeleine L’Engle set the challenge “Want to write? You need to keep an honest, unpublishable diary that nobody reads, nobody but you.”
That was the guideline I needed as I scribbled on while ripening in life. Journal writing became a writing warm-up exercise. Not meant for anyone to read, my personal recollections will go with me when I depart this earth. In the meanwhile, I figured out that by putting things down on paper, it helps me to return to my mental/spiritual physiology. My notebooks are a type of reconciliation tool that helps me get to the truth of a situation. Seeds of writing germinated.
A fertilization of that germination came from an idea I plagiarized. I befriended a minister’s wife who was ageless to me. When I met her, she and her husband were winding down their professional life in ministry and wanted to capstone it with serving in the mission field abroad (with South Korea being the lucky choice because that is where we met). They planned to officially retire from their senior pastor post at a large church in Little Rock, AK., after their mission tour. This delightful woman was from a family whose calling was as ministers. If memory serves me right: her father and siblings, her husband’s family, and her four children all were ministers or married to ministers. She shared a story of when her father died. As part of her father’s legacy, he left his Bible (the one he studied and preached from during his life) to one of her siblings. It was what she called the family Bible with all his notations inscribed inside. My friend confessed she would have liked to have had that Bible, but it went to the firstborn, a son. She decided, at the time that for her children; she was going to read through four Bibles, one for each, making notes in the margin, recording prayers) for the intended recipient in mind. When she dies, a designated Bible will be passed on to the child whom it was dedicated. I decided to do the same bequest to my four begats reading and studying through four Bibles, each a different translation, with one of them in the peripheral of my mind while going through one Bible, to give the notes and shared memories to them later.
Someone said the teachings of the Bible are to tell others what to think and believe rather than to think for self. I disagree. It’s man that gives advice; God gives guidance. The Bible is the inspired word of God given to mankind. I hope the reader will keep the Bible at hand and look up the passages while going through this book. After all, it is what scripture says, not me, that matters.
The amount of time traveled thus far in my earthly road trip is over the fifty plus years. If you think about it, it’s true what is itched on the car’s side mirror, “objects are closer than they seem.” I systematically use the same chapter order of the Bible, giving the biblical context of that chapter, clarifying along the way a few misconceptions about biblical interpretation, share some of my attempts at understanding deeper issues about God’s nature, along with antidotes from my life within its historical timeframe.
Before you ask: “so what, who cares what my applications are much less this midlife memoir?”, theologian and favorite writer Frederick Buechner, from his book Telling Secrets, explains:
“This is part of my story about what it has been like in my life to be me, and before anybody else has the chance to ask it, I will ask it myself: Who cares? What in the world could be less important than who I am and who my father and mother were, the mistakes I have made together with the occasional discoveries, the bad times and the good times, the moments of grace? If I were a public figure and my story had had some impact on the world at large, that might be some justification for telling it, but I am a private figure, living out of the mainstream of things in various locations, and my life has had little impact on anybody except for the people closest to me and the comparative few who might read this and be touched by it. But I talk about my life anyway because if on the one hand, hardly anything could be less important, on the other hand, hardly anything could be more important.
My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways you too can find your story by weaving it through personal applications found in Bible. Maybe nothing is more important than to keep track of these stories on who we were and now are, the people met along the way because it is precisely through these stories God makes himself known most powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but spiritually.”
Parker Palmer (Quaker, educator, and activist) inspires me to write when he says it is not perfection but embracing brokenness as part of life. He wrote “I am that to which I gave short shift and that to which I attended. I am my descent into darkness and my arising into the light, my betrayals and my fidelities, my failures and my successes. I am my ignorance and my insight, my doubts and my convictions, my fears, and my hopes.”
Where I found the courage to write came when I originally thought the audience would only be my children. I felt safe telling them my story through His story. Knowing my children, I doubt they will read this in any hurry (after all it’s like the prophet speaking to his own hometown, Luke 4:24 except mine is my home and the kids have watched the messiness of my growing) probably reading it later when I’m gone. I would like their, and my, progeny to read it.
My intent is to show the Holy Book’s words to be incredible what with God being both immanent (active within the universe and within man) all the while simultaneously transcendently (distinct existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level) thoroughgoing, yet divine qualities to be kept in balance in our thinking. I have often stood in wonder with others in a worship community, knowing God is speaking through His Word to them as well as me yet making a uniquely personal, applicable interpretation concurrently for each with the same scripture.
The Bible is, and always will be, alive and organic; not dated, dying or dead. It is not ho-hum. The Holy Word is humanity’s diary telling readers how those who came before us came to terms with their life through God’s guidance while living on earth and with each other.
Disclaimer: Parts of this novel is a creative nonfiction memoir. The abridged memoir side of each chapter are all true stories, through the author’s recollections. No two people remember an event the same way due to human heterogeneity yet we take our memory to be reliable. As objectively as possible, the author reconstructs her memories here. She does not use anyone’s name in the memoir portion of the narrative but instead, use titles (like ‘Pastor” and other pronouns). Some of those identifiers do not always apply to the same person. This work is not intended to hurt anyone. She can’t claim total objectivity (as much as she would like to) because by its nature a memoir is subjective.