Tuesday, October 15, 2013

When We Were on Fire

Within the first chapter, I found myself wishing I had Addie's phone number.

Mostly to say, 

I was at that concert too.
Probably that youth group.
Definitely that mission trip.
I also memorized all of the words to Father's Eyes." 
(Ahem, I may or may not still know them.)


I find I'm tempted these days to put all of my young Christian subculture experiences under the same category as all of the dispensable, awkward, and worth forgetting stuff. 

Not long ago, a friend and I caught up while driving, our eyes fixated on the dark road ahead of us, and we reminisced about the days from "before" my life fell apart. We tossed around names and places, addresses and old houses, churches and stories of a life that seemed fuzzy at best. Fuzzy mostly because I was trying to forget it. 

"I hate her," I said to my friend, almost in a whisper. "I hate the old me, you know? Like…I think about the things she did, the things she loved, who she was and I can't think of anything I like about her. I don't like any of it. I'm embarrassed by her."

She sighed and nodded. She knew her, that girl I proclaimed to hate. She knew her and called her friend.

"I remember her," she paused. "She wasn't that bad. And she made you who you are today. She's still a part of you." She went on to remind me of the good things. The things I had forgotten or had buried with the corpse of my memory. 

It wasn't all bad. Some of it was really good. It wasn't perfect. It might not be what I'd recommend now. And sure, some of it fed the trough that led me to where I ended up at 22. But I can't look back and toss it all away. I just can't. There is something to extract there, and you know who did it well? That Addie Zierman girl.


In "When We Were on Fire", Addie extracted. She took the pieces of all those years and laid them out like a rag quilt in front of the reader. She didn't say everything was ok, or that all of the strategies and plans worked. She delicately and honestly peeled back the layers of what it was like to grow up as one child of the 80s & 90s Christian subculture. She said things straight, gently, without mincing words, without dodging the issues. She said it and laid bare the facts — leaving the reader to see it plain and clear. 

It was how I'd want to be able to say it all, without all of my loaded cynicism and sarcasm getting in the way. 

"It's refreshing to read the words of someone who's main mission isn't to tear apart the entire Christian subculture," I said to a friend. "Even if we all know some things were weird, or handled poorly, she leaves it to the reader to come to their own conclusions. It's really, really refreshing." Addie never made it her mission to single-handedly rip the clothes off of a broken system. In fact, if anything, she looked back at the broken body of Christ and managed to simultaneously see all of the broken pieces of all of it without calling the whole thing "ugly." 

I'm still learning how to do this. How to call something like it is. How to take a step back and know what's over is over. How to slip back into the beauty of the body of Christ again without holding all of it's failures against everyone else. There were moments of the book where I felt I was sitting side by side with her. She said the words I thought. She thought the words I said. And I realized that maybe this journey out of the Christian subculture isn't always a solo one. Maybe a lot of us have sat in coffee shops or next to a bottle of wine and asked ourselves "How did we get here?"

And then something else Addie handled like a pro? The art of saying one thing while meaning another altogether. I mean — in some cases it was brilliant. It was that moment where you said, "Wait. You're not talking about what I think you're talking about anymore, are you?" I underlined passage after passage, writing in the margins things like "Yes, this." and "There it is." I made the book my own and thanked her quietly time and time again for saying the thing I didn't know how to put my finger on.

So here's what I'm saying. Addie Zierman's book "When We Were on Fire" releases TODAY. And I think you should read it. I'm not saying that because I'm trying to force you to see things from this side of the water. And I'm not getting paid to say any of this.

I'm saying you should read it because Addie writes one amazing memoir, and I wanted more. I wanted more stories, more anecdotes, more of what she's learned, extracted and where she's headed. Truth be told, that's how I always want to feel at the end of a book.

Take it from me and whatever is left of that Jesus Freak, purity ring wearing girl from 1995…it's so good you guys. 


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