I Wanna Be In the Light - Or, "Thank You"
Remember that old DC Talk song about being "in the light"?
Yeah, that one. Anyway, it's now been over a week since my book, The Light is Winning launched. And now seems as good a time as any to say, Thank you.
It's also true, and you may or may not have noticed this if you ordered the book, that I didn't include an Acknowledgments section, or even a dedication. I'm not sure how this happened, honestly... chalk it up to first-time-with-a-big-publisher oversights, but I honestly kept thinking I would add that after - after revisions, after copyedits, after something - but then, bada-bing bada-boom, we were off to the (printing) races!
So, here I am, a week and a half after launch, writing a kind of dedication, and some Acknowledgments, on my author blog. And maybe that's as it should be. Because while my writing on the Internet has gone through so many shifts and changes and moves over the last five years (with more to come, I'm sure), this blog has always been the space where my most intimate writing happens, where I talk directly to you, my readers. Which is to say, it's my home base - and saying thanks is something you do at home, right?
But first, back to DC Talk.
In the tradition of evangelicals taking to pop culture to wrestle with the angst of being holy in the midst of a hostile world (while still managing to be as cool as the coolest pop-grunge worldlings of the mid-90's), DC Talk unleashed this anthem on its Grammy-winning Jesus Freak album to basically let the world know that the struggle is real. "The disease of self runs through my blood," they sang, and every Christian teen, including me, thought, yes, exactly. Their pop-y predicament - "What's going on inside of me? I despise my own behavior" - was like Romans wearing flannel, and we could only marvel at how biblical and awesome this managed to be at the exact same time.
Of course, the predicament was only a setup for the chorus: "I wanna be in the light, as you are in the light. I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens."
Are you ready to finally get real with Jesus? Are you ready to set aside the trappings of the world so you can finally shine? Let's do this, young people!!
And we did. At least for a little bit, and then the song got kinda old, so maybe Newsboys could pick up the slack?
Shine. Let 'em wonder whatcha got. Let 'em wish that they were not. On the yadayada boomba forrrr
(I could never make out that last part.)
In the book I talk about some dark times, but you might not know that I was going through a bit of a dark time during the writing of the book itself. This dark time did not weaken my conviction in the book's message - that the light is winning - and it even strengthened it when all was said and done. But while it was happening, it created an unexpected and significant disturbance in what I thought would be an idyllic writing process (and resulted in a few deadline delays, too).
What happened was that my daughter Gemma, then 6 years old, got seriously ill and nearly died.
The rare illness - a sinus infection that went undiagnosed multiple times by doctors and then became full-blown bacterial meningitis - resulted in nearly a month-long hospital stay with life-saving surgeries and an intense intravenous antibiotic regimen, followed by an additional month of treatment at home.
Because writing had to happen once we were out of the hospital, and other freelance work on top of that, I really didn't have time to process what we'd just been through. To be honest, I still haven't.
But I know the light is winning. I know because the peace and presence of God was tangible in lonely hospital rooms late at night, in endless text conversations with my incredible persevering wife, in visits from sister Pippa and baby Willa who lifted Gemma's spirits in miraculous ways. And I know because the depth of love and gratitude I feel is now bottomless every time I look into the vivacious big blue eyes of my precious girl, who is still with us, who is fully recovered, who is doing better than ever.
It is astounding grace; it is nothing less than a resurrection.
So, I'd like to dedicate this book to Gemma:
Ever since you were born, you've been my best friend.
I can't imagine life without you;
Your heart is radiant, luminescent;
And there's no end to my love for you.
In the words of Rust Cohle,
"There's nothing but that love."
How about some Acknowledgements?
To my wife, Kalen: How can I ever thank you? It's only because of you that this book could happen; it's only because of you that I am even here! You are the key. You are the one. (You always have been.) I love you; you're my best friend; your faith, perseverance, and character are without equal. And now, our real, flourishing life begins.
To my other best friends, Gemma, Pippa, and Willa: The closeness of our family during the writing process is what sustained me through it. Your joy, your silliness, your love, your drawings, your gifts, your office visits, all of it, buoyed me up when things got tough, and made it all worthwhile in the end. We made it through, together. Always, together. I love you, all three.
To my friend, Justin: Who knew that our time in Maine would be a brief sojourn, which would culminate in the writing of this book? But the times I spent with you in conversation and fellowship were such a life-giving and critical part of the journey. There is a place in this world for us, indeed - and I look forward to a future of seeing that unfold, for both of us.
To my editor, Stephanie: Thank you so much for being an advocate for me and this book, for believing in the message and helping me to tell it slant. Your unparalleled ability to draw out the book within the book, the story within the story, is the reason why The Light is Winning is what it is. Can't wait to get to work on the next one!
To my agent, Jenni: Wow - here we are! Your calm and convicted guidance has been critical to facing each step of this process, and I am so grateful. It's good to have a collaborator who is also a friend, and I look forward to all that's ahead!
To the whole team at Zondervan: As much as I can be a misfit at times, you all have rallied around this project in a spirit of togetherness that is so humbling and encouraging to me. Thank you, for everything.
To prophetic voices in the church, but especially Brian Zahnd: Bishop BZ, I've noted in the past how your work has been so instrumental in saving my faith, and I'd like to note it again. Thank you, brother. And in all of it, thanks for being a friend, too.
To Jesus: Only you can resurrect me. Where else would I go? What other song would I sing?
The sheer cheesiness of mid-90's CCM notwithstanding, like DC Talk, I wanna be in the light.
To be honest, that's just where I'm at these days. I wanna be in the light, as he is in the light. And I wanna shine.
That doesn't look like the guilt-induced revivalism of an evangelical concert for anxious teenagers. Nor does it look like the politically charged antagonism with "the world" that was always underneath it all. Instead, it looks like finding my life centered on Jesus, deepened by religious practice, and empowered in Spiritual service (a much different political perspective). And really, it just looks like finding flourishing, for the first time. It looks like finally living, in all the depths of pain, reality, and hard-won hope, with all illusions vanquished by the sheer illumination.
This is the flourishing I pray that you will find too. I hope you catch a glimpse of it in my book, in my other writing, and lift up your eyes to believe that it's not just a story for other people. There's hope for you too. There's a resurrection coming, a promise on the other side of this wilderness, deconstruction finally giving way to the great rebuilding.
Because the light is winning.