I found Lily Dunn through her incredible article in Relevant Magazine called “4 Lies the Church Taught Me About Sex.” Since then I have enjoyed her blog, where she is never afraid to tackle tough subjects (she has another series on Sex and the Church going right now!), but always leaves her readers with hope for an authentic faith. I am honored to have her voice right here on the blog today.
Where I Found God: In Words
The room was dark except for the stage lights illuminating the guitarist and the rest of his band. The air hummed with the trailing notes of the bass and with the murmurs of the worshippers, each muttering their own fervent praises as they swayed, lifted their hands, or bounced up and down on their toes.
The pastor bounded onto the stage, beaming. He closed his eyes and raised his hands in front of the congregation. His voice boomed out over the din as he told us to “close our eyes and feel the presence of God in this place.” I closed my eyes. I tried to breathe the Holy Spirit in through my nose. I wanted to gulp him in by the lungful – I wanted him to take up residence in that space between my chest and my belly—but I lost that sense of fullness with each exhale. I opened my eyes and looked around the room. They seemed so sure that God was with us, but I couldn’t seem to find him.
I’ve spent my whole life in the church, but I haven’t always found God there.
I’ve found God in words.
As a child I read books. Adults said I read “hungrily,” “voraciously.” I would say I read necessarily—I didn’t think about it as an overwhelming craving. I did it because it was crucial to my being. I breathed, I ate, I slept, I bathed, I read.
I found God in Narnia and the Aslan-Christ, but I found him in less-expected places too – in To Kill a Mockingbird and in The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I found him in the rhythms of Rilke and the genius of Shakespeare and the wit of Tom Stoppard. I found him in The Brothers Karamazov, and when I read the final Harry Potter book during a long international flight, I wept on the plane because I understood Jesus and redemption and substitutionary atonement more clearly than I had in any of the theology classes I’d taken.
I clung to these stories like friends. I savored these words on my tongue like communion wafers.
I started writing stories in elementary school. I didn’t know then that this was a spiritual exercise—that it would become the truest and most necessary part of my faith.
Olympian and Chariots of Fire hero Eric Liddle famously said, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” I understand this, in a way. God knows I can’t relate to that in reference to any athletic endeavor, but reading and writing make me feel this way.
Writing is opening myself to the Creator. It’s finding that he hasn’t stopped creating – that he continues to make all things – and sometimes he allows me to participate in his story. Sometimes my participation is sharing his amazing works, telling the stories of his grace, and sometimes it’s writing, “Where are you?” over and over again until my hand aches. But always, I find him again in words.
I see the fingerprints of God in the endless imagination of Brandon Sanderson, in the spiritual wrestling of Anne Lamott, and in both the struggle and the triumph of finding exactly the right word. And when I try to wrap my own feeble words around a captivating culture or a breathtaking slice of nature or a heart-rending human experience, I am moved to worship.
I used to think that maybe it was strange – to claim I found God in words more than in church, and often words written by people with no regard for him at all. But then I remembered that in the beginning was the Word. So maybe God has been using words all along.
Lily Dunn is a teacher by day, a writer by night and an ice cream connoiseur all the time. She lives with her husband in Daegu, South Korea and works out her faith on her blog lilyellyn.wordpress.com You can also find her on Twitter @lilyellyn