He told me to be a writer. Every day for years, he was constantly poking at it, pulling it over my head like a hand-me-down sweater with a stretched neckline. He told me, a thousand times, that I was burying my talent in the sand. And it felt like shame, and I hid the secret that I could never, not ever, be everything he wanted. It was so much easier to fall into something else. To let go of this thing, this dream I used to want. Because the air was clearer above my head, and there was no one waiting for me to set the world on fire.
It was easier not to try. It was easier to quit the things I used to love. Because what happens if I fail? What happens if I can’t be that?
I’d rather hide behind the excuse that I never tried. To let it all go dim from lack of use.
“You’ve never worked for anything a day in your life”
That’s true. No matter how many times I sit with my forehead against the wall, staring fixedly and silencing the echoes in my brain, I cannot ignore this one. Amidst all the smoke and clamor there is a single bullet, winging its way into the soft tissue somewhere in my chest. Because it’s true.
I never wanted someone else’s dreams. It felt so dangerous to venture into that. But now I stand here, and you’ve told me in no uncertain terms that there’s nothing there to be proud of.
I cannot disagree. I’m not proud of this crumpled mess of things. And when I’ve let down everyone I care about…when I’ve torched the last bridge…what then?
There aren’t many people leaving their lights on for me. I can’t ride forever on good luck, charisma, and the ability to talk my way out of a corner.
I’ve never worked for anything a day in my life. I never wanted this, and to be honest there are a lot of days that I’m completely indifferent about whether or not it works out. I don’t want to work for this.
But also? I don’t want to give up so easily. Isn’t there anything that’s worth the fight? I’m quick with the joke, the shrug of my shoulders, the sheepish admission that I probably could have done better. I make it into a joke, and I act like it never mattered.
But what if I can’t…not anymore, at least? What if it does matter? What if I’m out of things to wave off? What if I put down roots, invest, try, only to discover that it doesn’t work?
I am afraid. And it’s been impossible for me to say that. It’s been easier to just shut down, to quit on myself before anyone else gets the chance. I’ve quit on myself, and I’ve quit on the work God wants to do in me.
What’s that supposed to mean, anyway? And I listen to that old Switchfoot CD and I write it on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt.
“If it doesn’t break your heart it isn’t love. If it doesn’t break your heart it’s not enough. It’s when you’re breaking down, with your insides coming out. That’s when you find out what your heart is made of.”
I might be brave enough to try, to invest deeply in this place and this life. I might even be brave enough to fail dramatically, in front of everyone. It might destroy me, but God help me, because I’m kind of out of other options.
“And you haven’t lost me yet. No you haven’t lost me yet. I’ll sing until my heart caves in, cause you haven’t lost me yet.”
Faithfulness. That’s a fruit of the Spirit you don’t hear so much about. Standing tall in the broken places. Boasting all the more in weakness, because it makes Jesus and grace look so big. Embracing the hard things. Learning to dream again.
If I don’t fight for myself, no one else is going to.