I know we're on the tail-end of the Open Letter trend, but I've never written one myself. And last night, after finishing Addie Zierman's upcoming memoir on growing up evangelical at the turn of the millenium, I felt the urge to get down a good old-fashioned thank you letter. You can pre-order When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over here. (I received a free advanced digital copy for review, but the opinions are 110% mine.)
I just finished your memoir and wanted to take a few moments to thank you. It was beautiful and painful and healing for me, just as I hoped it would be. There are dozens of little revelations I could express gratitude for, so many carefully-wrapped gifts that you have given me through your words.
I want to thank you for your honest depiction of the beauty and pain in those years we were naive and blazing, and for capturing some of the thousands of ways we were subtly wrecked by good intentions, others' and our own, and for giving me permission to feel the weight of my own doubt, to invite it in and let it exist, and yet not to let it be The End.
I know this story, the story of so many of us, is not everyone's. There are those out in the world who have emerged from the fire whole and complete and passionate as ever. But reading your words, I couldn't help but think, how could we not end up burned out on the other side, in the wreckage of this unsustainable fervor? How could we not come out of the flames coughing and gasping for air? How could we help but conclude that something must be terribly wrong with us now, that the light has gone out?
Thank you for helping me realize for the first time that laced in with my own reasons for doubting is the inevitably of existing in a time and a place that asks for all of it and then some from the deepest center of our hearts.
Most of all, thank you for your astounding bravery, for your diligence in putting the truth of your experiences, our experiences, to words. I can't imagine the courage it took, to throw your tender words out into the great wide world and hope they landed in mostly compassionate laps, to allow the judgmental eyes of Christendom to zero in on your story and defend or accuse at will.
I know it must not have been easy, pouring the ashes of your wounds out onto the altar like that, letting them rise up slowly into words. But I am so very grateful that you did. They are much-needed drops of rain over this little "world within a world" of ours.