editor's note :: i'm taking a break this month to work on a new manuscript. some of my closest friends have agreed to fill this space in my absence with their thoughts on bravery and what it means for our faith. you can read the rest of the posts here. today, preston shares his words.
There’s really only one way to slice a pie, so I’ll be frank about this: I’m used to being the center of attention.
In interviews, receiving donors to my former university, hosting dinner parties, discussing future projects, I’m the one holding a Moleskine open with pages covered in thin black ink having stayed up half the night before brainstorming every calculated move before we even meet. I hold forth frequently, often when I don’t necessarily intend to. Conversation lulls, I’ve read something interesting in Garden & Gun or heard something that morning on NPR, and within moments, I’ve taken charge of the table.
It is no small irony of God, then, that my job this summer is to develop grant proposals for ministries in my area. I tell their stories, not my own. On its own, this is not extraordinary. As much as I can hold a table, I often hold it by coaxing others to share. I push, inquire, draw out the meat of a soul and see what animates soul and body. But there is always guidance there, in the hand that moves the rudder of the conversation, I take my chance to explore their being with the directive of what I want to know, to understand. Even as they share, I’ve brought them to that place; I have still held the control.
And this, here, is the irony. The grant proposals I am setting up this time around are largely based in film and photo. I interview, ask, but they tell whatever stories they want to tell. They share whatever raw bits they seek to share. Regardless of what I have hoped to draw out, tell, display, it’s a roll of spiritual dice to see what will end up being revealed.
Behind the lens of my camera, I am not the center of attention. I hide, so as to let them be seen. The homeless, the victims of crime, the family members of those on death row, I become nothing more than a living tripod letting them breath the ashen bits of their parched being into the space between mouth and lens. I capture, but I capture as if in a field of thousands of butterflies. I’m catching without certainty of what I have caught. I have no control. They share. They spill out, and I have to be brave enough to trust that God shall lead them to share what is needed, what could help, what needs saying.
This is my bravery, to learn to not need to shape the story. I write for a living. I write stories that I control with the slightest movement of my hand against a Moleskine page. I write stories in my own life, with my own friends, with my own acquaintances. It’s a thing that God has to break me of often. This time around, He’s using these broken people. Their stories, not my own. I control nothing but the angle of the camera.
Then comes Holy Ghost, emblazoned in peace, purgating my need to hold tightly, loosing my grasp, teaching me to trust. His story, not mine. He writes better than I do.
Silence, minor poet, let the Master write.