In her memoir Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor writes,
Many years ago now, when I was invited to speak at a church gathering, my host said, “Tell us what is saving your life now.” It was such a good question that I have made a practice of asking others to answer it even as I continue to answer it myself. Salvation is so much more than many of its proponents would have us believe. In the Bible, human beings experience God’s salvation when peace ends war, when food follows famine, when health supplants sickness and freedom trumps oppression. Salvation is a word for the divine spaciousness that comes to human beings in all the tight places where their lives are at risk, regardless of how they got there or whether they know God’s name. Sometimes it comes as an extended human hand and sometimes as a bolt from the blue, but either way it opens a door in what looked for all the world like a wall. This is the way of life, and God alone knows how it works.
She goes on to describe her answer to this question: teaching, living in relationship with creation on her farm, observing the Sabbath, encountering God in other people, and “committing myself to the task of becoming fully human” are saving her life as she writes the book.
Now before you compose testy comments, I understand that only Jesus truly saves us. But as Taylor notes, he often uses other people, circumstances, and tangible blessings to bring “divine spaciousness.” If we accept salvation as a journey instead of simply a once-and-done destination, it follows that God can use anything he wants to open doors along the way.
Even a casual reader of my blog over the last year would recognize some of my own “tight places.” I continue to struggle with calling and purpose, with prayer, with church as usual, and with God.
I welcome these struggles because, as author and psychologist Henry Cloud says, “Non-growing people are very comfortable.” I’d rather be growing than avoiding uncomfortable tight spots—but, like Taylor, I appreciate lower-case-s salvation along the way.
So right now……
–Good books are saving me. In addition to Leaving Church, I’ve been reading or re-reading Prayer by Philip Yancey, The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller and Angry Conversations with God by Susan Isaacs. Good fiction is helpful, as well, for its lessons and its escapes. Recently I’ve liked The Help by Kathryn Stockett, The Postmistress by Sarah Blake and Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. Two months ago that list would have looked entirely different and two months from now it will again—and so will the way I think about life.
–Therapy is saving me. Hopefully we are long past the days when seeing a counselor carries a stigma. I’ve worked with mine on and off over the last several years and she’s immensely helpful in pointing out unhealthy patterns and suggesting new approaches. I don’t know anyone so well-adjusted and neurosis-free that they couldn’t benefit from therapy at some point. If you think you’re that person, you really need it.
–Music is saving me, as it always does. Right now it’s Andrew Peterson (as it always is) and, ahem, the songs from Glee. What? They’re fun and joyful and generally not too silly.
–Driving is saving me, preferably driving with music. I get my best ideas and insights in the car. But I will say there are a great number of very slow drivers in Nashville, many of them proudly displaying Dave Ramsey bumper stickers. Someone should conduct a sociological research project on this phenomenon. Are financially conservative people also cautious drivers? Are they just trying to save gas? Is there a Financial Peace project meant solely to drive me crazy? Someone needs to investigate.
–Gardening is saving me. Nothing else I’m doing right now gives me as much satisfaction as digging, weeding, and planting, or seeing the tidy flowerbeds and growing vegetables that result. During one bad week recently I shoveled up a second part of my yard and created a shade garden, because I’d run out of plantable space before I ran out of the need to plant.
Christ saves us, but uses the world he created to help us grow. What is saving your life now?