Here is this story (A When we Were on Fire Synchroblog post)


I grew up really White and Christian Reformed, I’m not saying this was a bad thing or that I hold disdain for my upbringing.  I just… did.

I went to the Christian Middle School and then the “practically Christian” Public High School.  I didn’t spend a lot of time challenging anything I was told in church or bible study, I just accepted it all as true and went on my merry way.

Then, at age 18, something snapped for me, As is often does when we’re baby adults… we begin to rail against what our parents taught us in an angsty journey to find our own “thing.”

For me it was leaving the denomination of my birth in favor of the very large, somewhat controversial, non-denominational church the next town over.

And then… getting baptized as an adult.  Which sounds like nothing really, but you have to understand that I’d grown up Reformed, where infant baptism was a really big deal.

I was sure that my family would be livid over my choice to proclaim my faith in this way.

But, I was sure that I had found the church, the way, the method, the only real place where faith was to be found.

I couldn’t understand why my other friends were persisting in their attendance at their respective churches when clearly I’d stumbled on the only way to do church.

I’d drank the kool-aid of independence and was using it as a weapon, not realizing that in my step of independence I still hadn’t realized that there was more than one way to do church.

I was so post-modern
so non-denominational
full of tirades and using my “label-free” faith in the most ironic way possible.

I know, I know… I want to go back and smack me too.  

So I got baptized in the church, as an adult, expecting that everyone would be so upset about it.

And no one was. Not really. My parents and grandparents came and it was overall a very real and Christ-soaked experience.

In spite of my angsty attitude, God showed up, redeeming my humanity with his holiness, thank goodness.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving that year, when we gathered around the Thanksgiving tables to enjoy turkey and jello “salads.”

Somehow it came up, one of my Aunts threw it out there: “So, we hear you were baptized in September?”

Here we go, I thought…  here is the moment where I have to stand up and fight for what I believe in, to fight.

“So why weren’t we invited?” She said.

My jaw dropped.  I was speechless for what felt like forever.  There was no gauntlet thrown.

“I guess I didn’t give you guys enough credit, I didn’t think you’d want to come.”

This was the only thing I could stammer out in the moment.

“You’re right, we really wanted to celebrate that with you, we’re thrilled at the new faith steps you’re taking.”

And I think that moment was when I realized it:  There is more than one way to be “on fire.”  It’s not Reformed OR Non-Denominational OR Catholic OR Methodist OR …. whatever.

For the most part… it’s AND.

You AND me.  Your Denomination AND mine.

There is more than one way to be on fire, and when you find yourself flaming, look out… you’re likely headed for a burn out.

Faith is found in the fire, but it’s sustained in the embers, the small, daily worship of faithful living and thankful prayers.

If you think you’ve figured it all out, that you have it all right, that you’ve found the one-way…. please remember how human you are and always will be.

The vastness of Creation echos the hugeness of a God we will never fully figure out this side of heaven…. This is the most freeing thing I can possibly say about faith and fire.

There is beauty in the vastness of his people, in the varieties Christian religious practices…. there is heritage in the name on the sign.

I couldn’t sustain the angry fires of post-modernism for long, I now live in the embers of faith and appreciation for a God who is huge enough to encompass our differences and call them “Tov Meod.”

So very good.

You guys, today I am linking up with a bunch of other bloggers, all of whom are excited to help my dear friend Addie Zierman, celebrate the release of her memoir: “Where we were on Fire.”

So go buy this book, do it now, use this link, no excuses!  “It’s a story for doubters, cynics, and anyone who has felt alone in church.”

I love Addie, I love this book, I’d like to hook the two of you up in this way.

Beautiful Scars- The Year of my Drinking

I’m so excited to be sharing a real and lovely post from my friend Addie Zierman who does most of her writing over at her blog “How to Talk Evangelical.”

Addie has a way of taking your soul and putting it into words, so I implore you to follow her blog immediately if you know what’s good for you.  Addie is sharing her voice for my “Beautiful Scars” Series, and if you’re interested in doing the same I would love that, click here for more info.

Beautiful Scars- The Year of my Drinking by Addie Zierman

That was the year that I was very sad. The year that I was drinking to get happy. Drinking to forget and remember and feel something all at once.

Before that point, my relationship to alcohol had been downright ambivalent. As an on-fire-for-Jesus high school student, I had thought drinking was a sin. As a college student at a conservative Christian college, I adhered to a strict Lifestyle Statement that banned it altogether.

But in 2007, I discovered my own bottomless, inexplicable sadness. And I discovered Starling Castle Riesling…a sweet, mellow wine that I could drink in great gulps.

After the first glass, I felt happy and buoyant. After the second, honest and authentic. Somewhere in the middle of the third glass, I felt myself float away like a balloon, and all of the pain looked tiny and surreal so far beneath me like that.

The Depression, of course, had to do with biology and with old wounds, never really healed. In this place of darkness, you encounter something normal like loneliness, and you cannot handle it. In this place, some church person that you barely know says some well-intentioned something, and it breaks you in half because you have become so brittle in your pain.

And what I want to say is that yes. I have been wounded.

Many of the wounds came from the high-mobility, high-passion evangelical teen culture of my youth.  There was a high school boyfriend who, in his scrambling to be “passionate for God,” broke my heart brutally again and again. There was a fervent, teen missions organization that set impossible standards and then made me feel less-godly, less-beloved and less-chosen when I couldn’t meet them.

My wounds came from unexpected places, places that I thought were safe, people who I thought were speaking the Word of God, and they cut deep. I was wounded and it was cruel and unfair and painful. I was wounded, and it matters.

But the thing about wounds is that they will heal if you let them, if you tend them, if you take care of them. But we are terrible at this. I am terrible at this.

Ever since the Garden, we have had this compulsion for covering. We cover the pain with silence or with excuses or with simplified Christian answers or with Starling Castle Riesling.

We walk around this world infected with anger and bitterness that we do not understand, and we just keep throwing stuff on it, expecting that we eventually, we will bury it deep enough that it will just decompose like an old piece of bread.

But this is not how it works. By covering my wounds, I only compounded them. In my desperation to numb the pain, I made it worse.

I drank and drank and raged. I flirted with temptation and peered into the cavern of my own darkness, and then, one day, I reached the bottom of myself. I reached that desperate place where I had to change or fall into the abyss.

Here is why my scars are beautiful: because they represent the work I have done to become whole.

My scars are beautiful not because they are wounds but because one day, I stopped pouring the Riesling overtop them. Because I went once a week to a sweet, serious therapist who made me talk through the ache. A therapist who helped me find them, clean them, sew them back together one brutal stitch at a time.

Scarring is that beautiful thing that happens when you hold out the painful thing and let the healing in. Let God in.

It’s that thing that happens when we uncurl from around those tender places and expose them to that startling, searing, beautiful Light.

Addie Zierman (@addiezierman) is a writer, mom, and Diet Coke enthusiast. She blogs twice a week at How to Talk Evangelical, where she’s working to redefine faith one cliche at a time.