Working Draft

The library wanted their book back. I maxed out the number of renewals allowed (three) and was acutely aware of how many pages I had yet to read (too many to finish without a marathon reading session). So I did what I had to do, stayed in my pajamas, and read.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven captured me – as did one sentence in Chris Cleave’s author’s note. Cleave attributed inspiration for the book to his grandfather, a World War II veteran who passed away before reading the manuscript. Cleave was writing draft three of five and wanted it to be perfect before giving his grandfather access to the words. Here’s what he said about that choice.

“If you will forgive the one piece of advice a writer is qualified to give: never be afraid of showing someone you love a working draft of yourself.”

When congruous ideas pop up all over the place like little conspirators trying to prove a point, we can call it coincidence and brush them away, or pay attention. I’m learning to pay attention. The “working draft” of myself is one such idea. The irony is not lost on me that my quickest reaction to the thought, “I should write about this,” was, “Maybe give it some more time, when you’re not in the middle of it and have more to say.” The working draft. How I like to keep it tucked away.

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The campus ministry calendar begins in August and ends in May. Those weird, sticky, looser months in between are for rest, planning, re-aligning with our purpose, and casting vision for the coming year.

A theme of conversation is always community. We seek to encourage and equip people to love God and love others, but we do so as a church body – a family – and not as individuals marching in the same direction but entirely sufficient in themselves. In order for this to happen, our relationships require vulnerability and honesty. But we don’t just want to talk about these things as ideals for the students we serve. We also want to examine ourselves to discern if we, as individual members of a staff team, practice what we preach.

Do I make intentional effort to know others and be known by them?
Do I voluntarily let people know when I’m sad, angry, or confused?
How well do I accept criticism?
How well do I accept compliments and encouragement?
Do I ask for what I want or need, or resent others for not understanding me?

Do I allow the people I love to not just see the working draft of myself, but speak into it and influence its formation?

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I don’t want to be a woman who is neatly composed outside the walls of my home, being just vulnerable enough to let a friend know I had a hard day but without articulating the reality that I was, in fact, lonely to the point of tears in a way that my introversion rarely manifests.

I don’t want my husband to be the only person who hears my rants. I don’t want to be willing to pray for others but never needing others to pray for me. And I’m realizing that if I feel misunderstood, or even unknown, then maybe I’m clinging too tightly to my working draft and just need to hand over the pages in progress.

I certainly don’t believe we’re called to this level of relational intimacy with everyone; vulnerability also requires discernment. But even revealing our truest selves to the people who love and care for us the most can be uncomfortable and difficult.

Something in our wiring resists. We feel exposed, even ashamed, and possibly afraid that others will be displeased or unimpressed. But the alternative result is a level of connection we couldn’t reach otherwise.

My brother felt led to start a monthly breakfast meet-up for other young, working dads. Over the phone as I wandered the aisles of TJ Maxx, he told me how sharing life honestly comes with some awkwardness and discomfort, and how sometimes it only takes one person’s vulnerability to allow the space for another to be heard and be known. The real stuff of marriage. The real pressure of work. The real struggle of parenthood, of purity, of faith.

What makes it risky is that we still might be misunderstood, and others still might be displeased or unimpressed with us.

But God has spoken to me with the hope of that alternative result. And like most of my journal pages scrawled out in a half-lit room, I want to practice sharing the draft in progress.

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