I am because I AM

Author:  Rachelle Rieke
I’m not fully sure why I share the following, other than that I feel it has some weight. It is a little distracted, unpolished, and straight-up stream of consciousness writing (sparked from a quote from a book about writing called Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg), but I hope that in reading what I wrote for myself, you might resonate in your own way and find encouragement to reach deep into that place where that little flame has burned your whole life: the dreams and passions within you, that if stripped of them, would strip you of the unique piece of God’s creativity in you. I have come to believe that God lives within our passions, and it’s through them that Heaven touches earth. Be encouraged, and believe in God’s expression in and through you. It’s the sweet spot.
If we see their lives and festivals as fantastic and our lives as ordinary, we come to writing with a sense of poverty… We must remember that everything is ordinary and extraordinary… In order to write about it, we have to go to the heart of it and know it, so the ordinary and extraordinary flash before our eyes simultaneously. Go so deep into something that you understand its interpenetration with all things. -Writing Down the Bones (p83), Natalie Goldberg
Today I feel my eyes have opened. I read those words- about a Hopi snake dance ceremony in Arizona written by a Buddhist Zen-enthusiast of all things – and what I see is a description of my relationship with God. It is so easy to think of God as extraordinary and myself as ordinary, but it does put a separating distinction between us. A chasm, with God on one side and me on the other. And yet how can you come to know someone with that kind of distance? I guess there might be a lot of shouting involved, but that kind of equates to empty prayer in an empty room, perhaps building in intensity and fervor… on a good day. Though I don’t know if I would call it a good day. Maybe just striving harder. Like God will hear me better if I increase my volume.
I don’t think so.
It takes me back to growing up in the church. I really had no grid for God except on Sunday, when of course I did – singing songs about Him and all. But He was still just more of an entity, a force, up in the clouds – the cosmic space of “somewhere out there” …anywhere but here. But it’s funny how in the fraction of a second, He can reveal just how close He really is. Right with you. Always.
This became a little more real to me when I encountered Him after I had graduated college and moved to Minnesota. I believe my heart had a fleeting moment that, without knowing it, or “trying” to, touched the words of the promise God makes about finding Him when we seek Him with all our heart, and they came alive in me. I suddenly and unequivocally knew God was real, and I knew Him a little bit better than I ever had before. Like looking across a room at a person in a classroom for weeks without ever saying a word to them to finally learning their name and saying hello. I learned God’s name and realized He had known mine for a lot longer than I could even know. And it changed everything. Those songs that I used to sing in church – and really did love – now they made sense and were so beautiful and poignant, they made me cry. Only a true relationship can do that. Otherwise it’s just words on the page. The words come alive by experience.
However, reading that quote, I can see how much I still fall back into seeing myself as “other” even though I can point to the scriptures that say God will never leave me, and not only that, but that He lives within me.
God, I want You to become more ordinary to me. Practiced. Felt. Remembered – as the well-worn path. It doesn’t make You any less extraordinary, but it helps me to see You more clearly. I need to know You, the heart of You.
I think of how I can feel spiritually high at church or some sort of church function – like it is extraordinary and Monday morning is ordinary. But it does leave me with a poverty mentality. It’s hard to access You at work, easy to forget You. I need to see You as more ordinary and work as extraordinary – to realize it is all a continuum. You’re always with me. I need that reality to pierce through like the breaking dawn. I believe this journey of writing will do exactly that. You speak in the unfiltered, the thoughts that are too absurd, too outlandish to possibly be God. But that’s exactly where the life is. The first thought. The unfiltered.
Thinking about the thought, measuring and weighing, judging the thought is the Editor. The Perfectionist. The Oppressor. The voice that daily tells you to shut up, that that thought is stupid; it couldn’t be God. But that’s the biggest lie. I realized today I have been shackled to the Oppressor my whole life. Every time I sweated with anxiety and even cried when my high school band director said, Box up. That meant we were going to spend all of jazz class like a combo, playing the progressions over and over as we went around the box – each person getting their full chord’s progression worth of solo improvisation. For me, it was absolute torture. I needed it to be written in front of me. And I could never understand why. I was so deeply depressed and disturbed that I could be so passionate for music – this music – jazz music – more than any other and not be able to do it. It made me feel like a groupie, a wannabe. It’s not for you, Rachelle. You can have a taste of that joy, but you can’t have the pleasure in the freedom of surrendering to it.
It’s the same with writing. I watched people sit down and start penning pages. And pages. They’d just go. Like little energizer bunnies, and I struggled to even get a sentence down. I couldn’t surrender to just writing to write. I needed to write something good, something perfect… the first time. No crappy first drafts allowed. It made writing assignments excruciating events of hours and hours because it needed to be just right. Don’t get me wrong, I wrote some good stuff. Work that still fed me the pure joy of creative expression, but it left me believing that despite loving it, I could never actually be a writer because of the extreme struggle involved to get from page one to page two – not to mention even getting the first sentence down. That itself upped the ante because of the burdensome pressure to draw the reader in. The Perfectionist, the Oppressor, killed my dream of being a writer before I even really allowed myself to consider it seriously. It makes me angry. I tricked myself into thinking I loved science in order to have a college major because there was no way I had what it took to be either of my passions, a writer or a jazz saxophonist.
It’s unbelievable really, how powerful the lies are. I thank God everyday (I hope anyway) for bringing me to a place where I could pick up a pen again and, if even with just the smallest shred of hope, a mustard seed of faith, believe that I am a writer. That I was born for this. That reading books under the covers with a flashlight as a kid, devouring books into the wee hours of the morning, that convincing my parents to reward my good grades with more books (after I found out that one of my neighbor’s parents bribed her with money for good grades), the notebooks, the journals, the poems, the deep love for literature… none of that was a coincidence. None of that was a mistake. I just bought into the voice that told me my dream of penning great writing for myself could never happen. Because I am ordinary, and those writers were all extraordinary. I embraced a poverty identity and lost sight of the spark. The life. The fire that burns inside with passion and purpose.
I’ve been grinding it out since. Until God found me. He established that I am a daughter, and now He is bringing me back to my God-given love. My God-given purpose and the knowledge that this is a deposit placed in me that is eternal. It has weight, substance. Meaning and depth.
Thank you God for this gift. Even if I’m never great, this is me. And it has more meaning than maybe anything I’ve yet experienced in my life other than coming to know You. What a tremendous gift. I don’t think I have learned more than I have in the past year or so of writing with You, God. I love it. With a joy that bubbles up within. I could cry with the emotion of gratitude I have for this. Please continue to teach me about writing and life and You and myself. Help me to be an excellent writer, and if ever I’m ready, to publish. For Your glory and for Your life through my words to touch hearts starving to know who they are.
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