Confessions of a spiritual hole-poker


I have a typewriter, an old beige-gray Adler from the 1950s. This isn’t all that extraordinary anymore, I know a lot of writers and vintage lovers who have them. Although I don’t know how many use them.

I use mine. It was a gift from a dear friend to help me as I moved through prayer and therapy. I love a keyboard over hand journaling but I needed one without connectivity, somewhere to write where copy/paste to twitter simply wasn’t a choice. Somewhere I could write and pray and be without temptation to promote or share.

So in the mornings I do my prayers on my typewriter, or at least I’m starting to.

If you ever paint me as a disciplined, have it all together writer, pastor’s wife person: please refer to this postor this one… for a little perspective. Then read the rest of this post and all false beliefs well be well and truly shattered.

But some mornings lately I do write and pray and talk to God via typewriter, earlier this week I found myself writing something that surprised me. It plunked slowly from my fingertips and as it took shape I knew it was a prayer worth holding onto.

“God, I feel like I’ve been living in skepticism when it comes to you. Doubting much and believing little. Help me survey this crumbled foundation of faith and start re-piecing my beliefs back together”

I’ve developed this bad habit over the past 10 years. I poke holes in spiritual things. If you read me a scripture, share a theological truth or play me a praise song I immediately look for ways it’s not true.

How it hasn’t applied to my life
Times in which God didn’t come through
Spots where it feels like BS

For I know the plans I have for you…
Really? You planned this for me?
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts..
This is what I suck at being a Christian…Got no peace.

I use the bible to tear myself down, to prove why I’ll never hack it as a Pastor’s wife, why I’m a total hypocrite and surely one of those lukewarm types on the fast track to being spit into the bowels of Hell. I’m nothing if not dramatic in my inner monologue

As if I’m living a life of “look what God hasn’t done for me! Look at how I’m failing as one of his children! Look and don’t be surprised, I’m not!”

And here’s where I find myself today: Totally sick of focusing on what I don’t believe, What the Christian community is doing wrong and how I’m not living up to the Bible’s standards. 

With a process like this, it’s no wonder daily scripture time and prayer doesn’t appeal to me.

I’m not saying that we should swallow things without question or believe everything we are told.

What I am saying is that the human heart can’t survive endless doses of cynicism and critique in regards to their faith, it starts to feel like starvation.

If all you do is poke holes in things.. of course your faith isn’t going to hold water… clearly.

So I’m sick of poking holes in things, of looking for loopholes, of drifting on the edges of faith because I feel like I can’t trust God or myself.

When it comes down to it I’m attached to the Text by a thin cord these days and as someone who does what I do with a husband planting a church it leaves me open to spiritual attack and lots of it.

I’m the weakest link in our family, the easy in for the enemy, I feel it. It may sound churchy to talk about “the enemy” but that doesn’t make it any less true, does it?

I’m not tethered to much except the laundry list of holey things that don’t hold water and ways in which God didn’t show up.

The best practice I have is that of gratitude, but I want to build on that.

In this season of Lent, I want to begin the slow process of reattach, to take steps toward a renewed faith with a sure footing, a firmer grip on the rock that saves us.

I want to slowly reflect on and write down what I believe
To dig into the prayers of the saints of old
To order my day around something larger than myself for a while

I don’t need to make my own theology from scratch, there are thousands of sisters and brothers who have gone before me…

But I need to remember
I need to return to the old and God given practices and truths
The ones I’ve been poking holes in

It’s time to patch the holes with truth
The sort you wrestle with before clinging to them for dear life.

It’s time for a return, a T’shuva to the God ordained and faithful ways. I’m ready.

  • Debi Whelan

    Amazingly great post Leanne. THIS is what will make you a good Pastor’s wife. You are not afraid to be candidly honest. Instead of repelling hurting people with pat answers, you crawl into the trench with them and maybe just sit there a while and let them feel their really, real feelings. Instead of trying to create a perfect environment where everyone plasters fake smiles on their faces, you will foster a community where authentic people connect to an authentic God and that is incredibly healthy. Vulnerability is a beautiful treasure.

    • Leanne Penny

      Thank you Debi, I really needed to hear this, sometimes it’s hard to remember that vulnerability has worth because I feel as though I value discipline above all.

  • Michelle Woodman

    Ah, loved this and the linked-to posts as well. (I’m woefully behind on my blog reading, speaking of things that I suck at …)

    And to loosely stitch together a quote from you with one from Matt Redman, it’s when we’re sucking in grace like oxygen that we can breathe out praise.

    • Leanne Penny

      Oh Michelle, no worried about blog reading because I am so with you there. Thanks for the quote, I love the word imagery there.

  • Andrea Frazer

    I’m with everyone here. I also think you’d be a person who would do very well with rituals. It’s why some Catholics – truly practicing ones – are some of the most peaceful people I know. Same thing with my friends who have been sober for many years. The mass, and the 12 step groups, understand the balance of structure in people’s lives. If we don’t make the mistake of mistaking ritual for God, then it’s a lovely path to God. What, besides the typewriter, could you do 3 – 5 times/day – or thematically in your life – to invite God in. (I must do the same.)

    • Leanne Penny

      Thanks Andrea! You’re absolutely right when it comes to ritual, it can bring so much as long as we don’t mistake it for God or even what he requires of us.

  • Mark Allman

    I think you are much stronger than you realize. Families like you and Kel’s have no weak links Leanne for you are so closely tied together; so closely linked no one would really knows where one starts and the other stops… you are in life together linked with unbreakable bonds.

    I think what you are doing will bear much as when you strengthen bonds they turn around and strengthen you for they allow you more freedom.

    I do know people who really need to be reached and who will be seeking will so much appreciate someone who is real like you who does not claim all the answers or claim to have it all together. Who really wants to share their ugly with someone they might view as perfect? I think they would think they would know nothing of ugly or how to possibly deal with it. For us who struggle and have worked through plenty of ugly I think those people appreciate what we can share with them.

    I always find it encouraging when you share the things you struggle with for it gives hope.

    • Leanne Penny

      Thank you Mark, I am so glad that posts like these resonate and that you have a such a strong and positive view of our family. I’m not sure things always “feel” unbreakable but surely no one is going anywhere :)

  • rachel lee

    this is exactly what I needed today. I need to get this hole-poking mentality locked in a box and burned with holy fire.

    • Leanne Penny

      Ooh, I like that idea Rachel. Yet, I think it will be a slow, methodical unravelling. And I’m okay with it.

  • Natalie Hart

    I feel you on this one — hole poking, nit picking, and the resultant avoiding. My relationship with Scripture changed for the better when I read through the Old Testament stories about all those glorious and messed-up people. I learn best in and through story, and there are some great ones in the O.T., and all kinds of little surprising moments. I’m a little nervous now that I’m in the New Testament, which is a lot more like Proverbs, with pithy little blurbs, which I’m not drawn to as much. So I’m not reading as much. But admitting it in public is a great way to bring myself back in line, I’ve found. I love that you’re using the old typewriter to type your prayers; the sound itself will be part of the experience :-)