For the past year I've been blogging material from a book I wrote called Apology. It never got published. I actually received money from two different publishers who both refused to put it out in print. That was hard to hear. Twice. But a funny thing happened during the process of working and reworking this material: I turned into a whole different person. And it was excruciating.
When I first started thinking about the ideas you’ve been reading, my family was living right outside of Atlanta, Georgia. When I agreed to terms with my publisher, we were living just outside of Los Angeles, California. By the time I finished the first draft of the manuscript, we were back outside of Atlanta again. We were in Texas when the second publisher bought it, didn't like it and returned the rights to me. And now I've got boxes piled up in my dining room as we're packing up to return to Georgia (again).
Life is officially crazy, and, as much as I love Atlanta, it's starting to feel like the place where I go to lick my wounds.
I remember loading up the girls and the dog and driving out of our fair city, making our way westward, chasing a dream of building a new kind of church. We were so sure and so optimistic and so hopeful.
But things don’t always turn out the way you want.
It has been a humbling experience in many ways. So many things unrealized, so many dreams left unfulfilled. I've done my best to mask my disappointment (sometimes succeeding, probably failing more often than not), trying to hide from my kids the embarrassment and feelings of failure I experienced. It's hard not to feel like I am coming back with my tail tucked between my legs, a defeated man, a failed church pastor, an extremely sinful one at that.
Being a writer is a solitary occupation, and that solitude doesn’t do much to help those feelings of failure.
When I came up with the idea of writing a book like this one, I thought I’d sit and have conversations with lots of different kinds of people. After abortionist George Tiller was murdered in the summer of 2009, I thought maybe I’d find someone from Planned Parenthood to talk with. But that never materialized. I had it in my head that I could find a Muslim cleric to talk with, but, again, it just never came about. There were a couple of hardcore atheists who backed out and didn’t want to be involved at all.
So many things change, and there’s so little that’s actually ours to control. I cannot, for example, control how you’ll respond to what I’ve written here. You may choose to fall on your knees and cry out to God. Or you may choose to write me off as a heretic. You may find yourself thinking differently about things. Or you may go about your business as usual.
I can’t control you. I can’t control my circumstances – no matter how hard I try. I can only control myself (and sometimes not even that). I can work on controlling the things I say and do. Beyond that, who knows what tomorrow may bring?
Well, at the risk of stating the obvious, God does. He knew what would happen, which conversations would take place and find their way into this book, how you would respond to all of this, where I would be living. He knew all of this when I first ran the idea of this book past my agent. God chooses to reveal what he reveals, and I’m relatively sure he’s got his reasons.
One thing I do know: I am not the same man I was when this process began. Things are different. I think I’m more myself than I was. I like to think I’m more like Jesus than I was (I’m not one of those people who assume the two are mutually exclusive). As painful as this process has been, the pain is redemptive. God has used that pain to forge compassion in me, to form a stronger character, a Christlikeness that wasn’t there before, or at least wasn’t there as consistently as it is now.
I know that I’m not who I was, and I also know that I’m not yet who I will be. God is in the process of transforming me, a process that won’t be done this side of eternity. He’s in control, and he has my best interests at heart. If I ever doubt that, I’ll just read this entry again.
I began last May by explaining that, technically speaking, an apology is a reasoned argument that makes sense of something we may find difficult to understand. I also acknowledged that the word “apology” has obvious emotional overtones as well. That combination of reason and emotion, I believe, can lead us to understanding. And understanding may lead us to healing.
For what it’s worth, I don’t believe he owes me anything, but I’ll accept whatever comes next as God’s apology.