when I became a writer

8 08 2008

I have joined a writing group that will have a weekly assignment. I will post my writing on this blog as well as on the group blog. This week, the assignment was open-ended: introduce yourself. As a way to do this, I wanted to share a little about how I became a writer.

At 18, I used to sit on the balcony of my apartment overlooking the Ballard bridge. I would wear a wool sweater that had belonged to my childhood nanny when she lived in New York in the 1970s. Drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, I would watch the blue smoke curl up into the dark sky. My roommate Kayce and I would sit and write, occasionally opening a bottle of wine or tequilla when the coffee got cold.

My best friend from high school told me that I was acting like a dirty old man. She was right.

Three years earlier, the same friend had put our relationship on the line: “Stop drinking, stop using drugs, or I cannot be your friend. I love you and I will not watch you do this to yourself.”

Words, words, words of unconditional love. Words that my parents had never been bold enough to say, words that changed my heart. I had given my life to Jesus at a crusade. But surrounded by 30,000 people singing, crying, falling to the ground, I didn’t consider the cost. I didn’t realize that in coming home, this prodigal would be utterly transformed by love.

In high school, I stopped drinking and smoking pot. I stopped kissing boys I hardly knew. I bought a Bible with a cover and wore WWJD bracelets and threw out my secular music. I stopped wearing a bikini because good Christian girls wore one-piece swimsuits. I believed that if I was good enough, God would really make me a part of his family.

I sat on that balcony, I knew that I would never be good enough. On the outside, I looked like a Christian. And somewhere deep within, my heart belonged to Jesus. But I was stuck in between this lie and the Truth. I lived on cigarettes and coffee. I hardly ate or slept. Living on adreneline, my hunger and despair became fuel that propelled me through the long, dark days of that Seattle winter.

I began to write. I wrote essays and memoirs, articles and press releases. I filled the pages of my journal. I wrote letters to people I missed and letters I never sent to those who had wounded me most deeply. I cried out to this God whom I loved; I wrestled with this God whom I feared.

As the days grew longer and the sun began to shine, I spent less time on the balcony. Nearly eight years later, I’ve quit smoking. I still enjoy coffee and wine, maybe more than I should. I’m married to a man who loves Jesus and we have two young sons with a third on the way. Most days I understand that I will never be good enough, but that it doesn’t matter. Jesus was good enough.

But I still write. I cannot make sense of life without putting words on a page.

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