“No one ever influenced Tolkien—
you might as well try to influence a Bandersnatch.”
– C.S. Lewis
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Like most people who have grappled with their childhood faith, I’ve learned that I can’t base my understanding of God on what other Christians are like. Even the most pious of pulpit-pounders are still human, and the ones who claim the most loudly to speak for God are the ones who raise my highest defenses. My best strategy for avoiding spiritual disillusionment is to keep firm mental boundaries between who God is and how people portray him. However, I’ve also learned this: that when you see Jesus in someone, you don’t easily forget it.
Erika Morrison is one such person. To her, everyone from the homeschool mom to the homeless cross-dresser reflects one facet of an infinite God, and she lives like it. When I started getting to know her four years ago, her words somersaulted my perspective of Christianity onto its head. The way she defined freedom and art and identity and community made me want to exhale three decades of pent-up weariness and then invite everyone I knew to a dance party. This is a lady who believes down to her toenails that God wove our quirks and creative impulses into us not so we could spend our lives trying to overcome them in the interest of uniformity but so that we could fill the us-shaped voids in this world. You just try not busting a move as that realization sets in.
I wanted to introduce you all to Erika not just because she’s rad—though she absolutely is—but because her book Bandersnatch was released into the wild today, and this makes me glad for humanity. It’s her gift of sacred unconventionality put to paper (or, uh, Paperwhite), and I don’t imagine that many of us who pick it up are going to be the same when we put it back down. At the very least, we’ll be several pounds lighter in exhaled cynicism.
Now, without further ado, I’ll turn it over to Erika:
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Bandersnatch (Full Length Trailer) on Vimeo.
The cardinals make it look so easy. The honeybees make it look so easy. The catfish and the black crow, the dairy cow and the cactus plant, all make being created appear effortless. They arise from the earth, do their beautiful, exclusive thing and die having fulfilled their fate. None of nature seems to struggle to know who they are or what to do with themselves.
But humanity is the exception to nature’s rule because we’re individualized within our breed. We’re told by our mamas and mentors that—like snowflakes—no two of us are the same and that we each have a special purpose and part to play within the great Body of God. (If your mama never told you this, consider yourself informed: YOU—your original cells and skin-print, guts and ingenuity—will never ever incarnate again. Do you believe it?) So we struggle and seek and bald our knees asking variations of discovery-type questions (Who am I? Why am I here?), and if we’re semi-smart and moderately equipped, we pay attention just enough to wake up piecemeal over years to the knowledge of our vital, indigenous selves.
And yet… even for all our wrestling and wondering, there are certain, abundant factors stacked against our waking up. We feel and fight the low ceiling of man-made definitions, systems and institutions; we fight status quo, culture conformity, herd mentalities, and more often than not,
“The original shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out of all our other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.” ~Frederick Buechner
So, let me ask you. Do you know something—anything—of your true, original, shimmering self?
I don’t mean: Coffee Drinker, Jesus Lover, Crossfitter, Writer, Wife, Mama. Those are your interests and investments.
I do mean: Who are you undressed and naked of the things that tell you who you are?
Who are you before you became a Jesus-lover or mother or husband?
Who are you without your church, your hobbies, your performances and projects?
I’m not talking about your confidence in saying, “I am a child of God” either. What I am asking a quarter-dozen different ways is this: Within the framework of being a child of God, what part of God do you represent? Do you know where you begin and where you end? Do you know the here-to-here of your uniqueness? Do you know, as John Duns Scotus puts it, your unusual, individual “thisness”?
I can’t resolve this question for you, I can only ask you if you’re interested. (Are you interested?) I can only tell you that it is a good and right investment to spend the energy and time to learn who you are with nothing barnacled to your body, to learn what it is you bleed. Because you were enough on the day of your birth when you came to us stripped and slippery and squeezing absolutely nothing but your God-given glow. And who you were on that born-day is also who you are now, but since you’ve been living on this planet long enough to learn how to read this article, then it follows that you’ve also lived here long enough to collect a few layers of horsefeathers and hogwash.
So, yet again, I’m inquiring: What is it that you see before the full-length bathroom mirror after you’ve divested of clothes and masks and hats and accessories and roles and beliefs and missions and persuaders and pressures—until you’re down to just your peeled nature, minus all the add-ons mixed in with your molecules? Do you see somebody who was made with passion, on purpose, in earnest; fearfully and wonderfully, by a Maker with a brow bent in the center, two careful hands, a stitching kit and divine kiss? Can you catch between your fingers even the tiniest fragment of self-knowledge, roll it around and put a word to it?
Your identity is a living organism and literally wishes to unfurl and spread from your center, and who will care and who will lecture if you wander around a little bit every day to look for the unique shine of your own soul? One of the central endeavors of the human experience is to consciously discover the intimacies of who we already are. As in: Life is not about building an alternate name for ourselves; it’s about discovering the name we already have.
Will you, _______, rise from your own sacred ash?
The rest of us cannot afford to lose the length of your limbs or the cadence of your light or the rhythm of your ideas or the harmony of your creative force, the way you sway and smile, the awkward this and that and the other thing you do. We are the Kingdom people, and learning your own fingerprint is something of what it means for the Kingdom to come in response to an earth which groans forth its rolling desire for the great interlocking circle of contribution to reveal the luminous and loving Body of Christ and slowly, seriously—like it’s our destiny—set the world to rights.
Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul was written because sometimes we all need a little hand-holding and butt-nudging in our process, someone or something to come alongside us while we pick up our threads of soul discovery and travel from one dot and tittle to the next. It is support material for your soul odyssey; a kind of field guide designed to come alongside the moment of your unfurling. If you’d like to read the first three chapters and just see if Bandersnatch is something for such a time as the hour you’re in, click here. And if you’re ready for more, you can order HERE or wherever books, ebooks, or audiobooks are sold. [Bethany’s note: GET THEE THIS BOOK.]
Kingdom come. Which is to say: YOU [be]come and carve your glorious, powerful, heaven-appointed meaning into the sides of rocks and communities and cities and skies.
Come with me?
All my love,