I just finished listening to this podcast series where the hosts discussed certain aspects of a certain religion. One of the things that they discussed was the tendency for people to exaggerate their “before picture” in order to make their conversion story more impactful. They would ask someone in this religion to clarify the statement that they were “strung out on drugs” prior to conversion. “What kind of drugs? What sort of things did you do?” They would respond by saying, “Oh, all of them.” Any drug the interviewer would name, the person would claim as their previous vice.
Exaggerating your story to make it sound more impressive only points the attention back to you. It doesn’t point to God, because you can’t find Him through lies. His work doesn’t need human embellishment to speak to people. There is an endless sea of people who don’t have horrid pasts, grievous sin, or skin sagging addictions they’ve been saved from. There are people who, by all appearances, are as vanilla as they can be and they need to God’s grace just as much as someone like me. Their pain, sin, and tension is just harder to see. That’s where Emily’s story comes in.
“While the breaking of the rebel may come with alarms and blaring lights, attention-getting interventions, and phone calls in the night, the breaking of the vanilla comes as a silent crack in the soul, an understanding of our deep selfishness in the midst of our deep woundedness” (page 173).
I enjoyed reading Emily’s chapter. Her writing isn’t pretentious, she didn’t embroider her story, and I recognized her heart in it. I recognize the grace she says she knows and it makes me feel relieved that she’s using her voice in a world full of otherwise meaningless religious merengue.
She writes about trying to live the right way, follow the right rules, and how that lead to “pride when [she] got it right” and “shame when [she] failed”.
“I had to face this cycle and name it in the presence of Jesus – this self-life, the all-about-me-life, the flesh disguised by sweet smiles and twisted intentions. Don’t let the mask fool you. This kind of living is sin” (page 173).
When Rocky Road meets Vanilla, we can always see the mask. It’s good to know that she’s not wearing one.
Mandy Steward wrote the 28th chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it, “Breathing Fresh Air”. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter next.