Updated: Jun 15, 2021
The excitement and terror of putting your voice out there into the collective.
It was on my "to do when I have the time and space and essentially perfect conditions" list for a long time. I'd been through at least a dozen, and probably more, different iterations of this book as the winds blew in more and more people interested in Wild Church. My sister and I spent a couple years excitedly trying different ways to write a book about "the conversation" with the natural world and the Holy. But it didn't get anywhere till I had a real deadline: an accepted book proposal. And even then, I kept back-burning it until I got my other work "in order" which of course is a setup. Writing doesn't work that way. Natalie Goldberg and Anne Lamott and Annie Dillard and Ursula LeGuin -- my writing heroes -- all said so. If you wait until the conditions are right to write you never will.
I ended up leaving myself only three months to write the entire first draft of Church of the Wild. Three months and thirty years. Sometimes, as David Whyte so generously offers in his brilliant devotional called "Consolations", procrastination is simply a sign that gestation time is not complete. There is never a perfect or even right time. There is only now.
I began this journey in response to a longing and—as cliché as it may sound—to a calling. My journey into a wild spirituality began after nearly twenty years of leading churches and a dozen years coleading a youth climate nonprofit with my son. In both roles—as a pastor and an activist—trying to keep my spirituality and love of nature separate led me into a dissatisfied unrest and ultimately burnout.
I discovered on a very personal scale that when spirituality is severed from the rest of the living world, there are severe consequences for the aliveness of both the people and the rest of the world.
I finally began actually writing almost exactly the same week that George Floyd was murdered. In the middle of a global pandemic, something happened that ripped the veil of "oh that racism hatred is just awful" to reveal a deeper awakening, an "Oh lord god, I've been so blind and detached, what do *I* need to do? What must I do today?"
The underlying festering wound of racism was punctured open and the stench of white supremacy became so exposed that many of us white folks could finally feel on some level the violence that our Black and Indigenous brothers and sisters feel every day. Every sentence I wrote felt white and privileged and shallow and unimportant.
My inner critic, an unwelcome but pervasive guest, had a heyday for a while. I could hear the critical voices ripping apart every sentence. I asked the publisher to hire a "sensitivity reader" to scan my draft and help me to see where I am blind to the experiences of others and said things that could hurt them. It didn't help much. The sensitivity reader didn't really understand the pitfalls I was worried about and pointed out places instead where I might offend conservative Christians. I don't like to offend anyone, but conservative Christians were not the people I was worried about.
So, my plan to evade accidental offense to BIPOC didn't work. I had to enter into the collective naked and brave. Like we all do. I had to make a choice to be open to the reality that someone will be offended by my words. And I would listen to whomever is offended, and respond with authenticity and do what I can to make amends. Not sure there is any other way.
It's a serious matter to choose to put your voice out there into the world. The vulnerability of it is profound. But to not do so is also a risk. Possibly a greater risk. To live your life in fear of offending someone keeps you safe perhaps, but also small.
It is time not just for me, but for all of us who feel called by Spirit and by Earth herself, to speak up and risk being misunderstood or judged. Risk accidentally hurting someone. Once we are convinced that it's worth it, we just need to do it. The transition to a new story is happening and we are part of it. Our outside voices are needed.