by Elizabeth Maxon
Some days writing is like trying to squeeze the tiniest drop of moisture from a dry sponge. Other days, it washes over me.
When I offered to write a guest post for Angie I was dripping. I had been inspired by her kindred spirit for authentic “spill your guts” writing, and I couldn’t wait to contribute to the tapestry of beautiful truth she is weaving together on her blog. And then I laid my fingers on the keyboard, and in an instant I was dry as a bone. My old friend fear had stepped in. It’s one thing to write on your own blog, on your own terms. It’s another thing to have one shot at an audience you admire and want to connect with. I feared I would fail her, fail you, and ultimately, fail myself. And so I went seeking puddles to jump in. This is where I landed…
There was a moment—10 years ago—in which I recall taking those first fumbling steps toward freedom. My marriage was failing, and there was great fault on my side that had led to this situation. But it took three phone conversations over the course of a month before I was able to tell my mom about my impending divorce.
When you’ve lived your life as the good girl who’s always “fine,” no one ever really expects you to drop a bomb like that. The rhythm of the conversation would always dance around my latest achievement or my concern over someone else. Admitting that a storm was raging in my life would mean admitting my failure to keep the sun shining. Isn’t that ridiculous? To think that any person could be responsible for the weather? But the weight I placed on my own ability to control the world around me was nearly equal to that.
On the phone with my mom that day, I suddenly found myself in a situation that I could not “fine” myself out of. And so my first step toward living an authentic life came with this statement: “I’m not doing well.”
The words were so hard to choke out all those years ago but they’ve gotten easier. I’m in the habit of saying them now because the truth is, there are days for all of us when things aren’t going so well. And the crazy thing is, ever since that admonition, my life has gotten better. I guess everything wasn’t really riding on my success after all. Freedom was found in the failure.
Growing up in the church, I knew that perfection was not a prerequisite for faith. But I did strive to be really good. When all the things I was really good at failed me, I had nothing to hold onto. And sometimes when we have nothing—that’s when we really begin to find something. A life based on Truth and Grace.
Many years ago, a half-drunk guy sitting next to me on a flight attempted to engage me in a philosophical discussion. Once he learned I was working on my Ph.D. in psychology he suggested I write a book. I guess a couple of gin and tonics made me sound like a genius. Interestingly, that guy spoke aloud a dream that I had held quietly in my heart for a long time—the dream of being a published writer.
I recently read these words from Emily Freeman in her book Grace for the Good Girl: "Maybe you are hiding from your dreams because to face them would mean admitting they are there. And to admit that they are there would mean you aren’t living them after all."
In my life dreams aren’t the only things I have hidden. Writing has been the means of drawing me out of my hiding places—the places that felt safe but were slowly killing me. Once I moved from writing for myself to writing for others I finally began to move from the shadows and into the light. I began to experience a desperate need to vulnerably step out into the open.
There is surprising healing in that place. For myself, and for others. Out in the wide open with heart laid bare you find that you are not alone. Your arm doesn’t have to stretch far before you are grasping onto the hand of another broken person right beside you. And together we step forward. In truth. In grace. In freedom.
Elizabeth Maxon lives in Charlotte, NC and is the Children's Ministry Director at New Charlotte Church. You can connect with her on her blog, Words and Wonder.