If every life is a story told, what if we get it wrong? What if we wake up one day to discover we've been living the wrong story--someone else's story, perhaps, or a version of our own story that is out of date? Can we go back and rewrite the script, mid-stride, as it were?
For six months I've been labouring over a memoir that tells the story of my life in the church, and of my thirty-eight years as an ordained minister in particular. The "frame" I had adopted, to help contain and give shape to the burgeoning material, was the feeling, when I retired, that I was "done." Why was I "done," I wondered? Had the church failed me in some way? The memoir was my attempt to answer that question.
Now that I have completed a first draft--all one hundred and thirty-six thousand words of it!--I think the "frame" I was using may have been the wrong one. I was assuming it was about the church and I told my story from that perspective--how the church as an institution has been so disappointing to me, as it has to so many others.
But what has become clear is that, whatever my disillusionment with the church, my story is not about that. It's about the personal sense of purpose and calling that I have felt since my earliest years and how that goes on, whether or not I remain part of the church. In a way, I am not in fact "done" with the church at all, which I still love with a deep passion; and I'm certainly not "done" with my faith, which continues to thrive. I am done with my ministry, that is all, which had simply come to its natural conclusion.
So now I face the daunting task of going back and combing through the various threads of my narrative for the real story that wants to be told, not the one I thought I wanted to tell. It is overwhelming, given how far I'd already come, to start over. But it is also more promising, more hopeful, and most important, more truthful.
Having shaken out my church-related "grumpies" (as a child shakes out their "sillies"), I am now curious about a different question: What is it I was trying to do, all those years? What was trying to be birthed through me? What was the real work to which I was being called, not just the church work, and how does that work continue to unfold now that I've retired? These are very different questions, and questions that may be worthy of a fresh start. I hope so. It's a long way, back to the beginning.